Luke 1:46-56 The fear of God is the primary foundation to a blessed life

Luke 1:46-56 The fear of God is the primary foundation to a blessed life

46 And Mary said:
“My soul exalts the Lord,
47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
48 “For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave;
For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.
49 “For the Mighty One has done great things for me;
And holy is His name.
50 “And His mercy is upon generation after generation
Toward those who fear Him.

51 “He has done mighty deeds with His arm;
He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart.
52 “He has brought down rulers from their thrones,
And has exalted those who were humble.
53 “HE has filled the hungry with good things;
And sent away the rich empty-handed.
54 “He has given help to Israel His servant,
In remembrance of His mercy
,
55 As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and his descendants forever.”
56 And Mary stayed with her about three months, and then returned to her home.

Background

Mary’s recital prophesied of Jesus’s role in the world: to establish God’s righteous rule and blessing for humanity. Today’s devotion teaches us that the fear of God is the primary foundation to a blessed life.

Observation

And His mercy is upon generation after generation toward those who fear Him.

Mary turns her focus towards God’s rule over humanity. Those who submit themselves to God’s rule (those who fear Him) enter His kingdom to live abundantly. In describing God’s righteous rule, she alludes to Jesus who is the head over all rule and authority (Colossians 2:10). Jesus said concerning His dominion,

For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes. For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. John 5:21-23

Jesus disarmed the powers of darkness after receiving authority from the Father. With this authority He empowered His followers to destroy the works of the devil and establish His rule. The Son’s righteous rule comprise the following characteristics:

  • The Son shows steadfast mercy to those who fear Him (v50). To show mercy is to grant divine favour. However, the fear of God is to be distinguished from the fear of retribution. Those who fear God obey His directives and trust Him unreservedly. For such, there is no divine wrath or retribution.
  • The Son is righteous and decisive in executing judgment over those who are haughty and rebellious (v51-52). He scatters and topples the proud from lofty places while exalting the humble.
  • The Son is not given to human biases but is righteous in judging the motives of the heart. In this world, the poor are often disdained and trampled upon while the rich enjoy ubiquitous favour. When the Son rules, He fills and sends away empty regardless of one’s social status (v53).

He has given help to Israel His servant, in remembrance of His mercy

In conclusion, Mary sings of God’s covenantal faithfulness towards Israel and the patriarchs. This divine providence of mercy is directed to those who possess the faith of Abraham. It is through the righteous rule of Jesus that all the families of the earth will be blessed.

Truth

The fear of God is the primary foundation to a blessed life

The reign of Jesus over all creation brings eternal blessing and salvation to humanity. Just as any immigrant, in order to enjoy the rights of citizens in a new country, he must first submit to their laws and be made a citizen,… likewise, God’s kingdom blessing is granted to those who fear God, who submit to divine rule. That said, the fear of God must be distinguished from the fear of retribution. Fear of God comprise love and reverence towards the sovereign Creator who cared enough to be shamed on man’s behalf. Without the fear of God, man can never experience the blessings of the kingdom.

While the fear of God is manifested through love and reverence, the opposite of which is self-centredness or self-rule. Many churchgoers practice selective obedience, instead of wholehearted repentance towards the ways of Jesus. The usual objection or justification for their lukewarmness is: the untenability of God’s expectation towards man. They supposed Jesus’s sacrifice has waived man’s obligation towards perfection. For this, Jesus vehemently refuted the Jews who despised sinners, who sought vengeance against their “enemies”. Jesus said, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48. Where does that leave the love of God? For the repentant, the love of God spurs greater love and reverence towards Him. But for the impenitent, God’s love turns toxic, justifying and reinforcing their evil intent and lawlessness.

All that said, what does the fear of God bring? The bible lists the blessings associated with the fear of God:

God gives them families of their own – And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own. Exodus 1:21

God grants wisdom for unsolvable problems – Who, then, are those who fear the Lord? He will instruct them in the ways they should choose. Psalm 25:12

God separates them from the rest and gives them special treatment – The Lord confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them. Psalm 25:14

God sets them apart from the rest and gives them a special portion – How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you. Psalm 31:19

God gives them greater authority over the angels – The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them. Psalm 34:7

They never experience a moment of lack, for God sees to their abundance – Fear the Lord, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing. Psalm 34:9

God fulfills their desires – He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them. Psalm 145:19

God grants them divine wisdom – The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. Proverbs 9:10

God grants longevity in health and enduring prosperity – The fear of the Lord adds length to life, but the years of the wicked are cut short. Proverbs 10:27

God secures their children for safety and prosperity – Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge. Proverbs 14:26

They will avoid sudden downfall because of sin – Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for; through the fear of the Lord evil is avoided. Proverbs 16:6

Their lives will be untouched by trouble – The fear of the Lord leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble. Proverbs 29:23

God grants riches, honour and life – Humility is the fear of the Lord; its wages are riches and honor and life. Proverbs 22:4

Application

Are there false beliefs in your life that sustains your lukewarm attitude towards God? Are there grey areas and idols that keep you from living the abundant life? God calls you this Christmas season to love Him and fear Him wholeheartedly. And because the love and fear of God is expressed in the believer’s hunger for His word: Renew your commitment towards reading the meditating on the word.

Dear Lord, forgive me for not loving and fearing you wholeheartedly. I am committed to deal with the sins and distractions that have kept me from experiencing your covenantal blessings. Regenerate my attitudes and I will enter the new year assured of greater miracles and breakthroughs for my church, family and career. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.

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Luke 1:46-49 Human frailty is the foundation through which divine power becomes manifested in the world

Luke 1:46-49 Human frailty is the foundation through which divine power becomes manifested in the world

45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what had been spoken to her by the Lord.”
46 And Mary said:
“My soul exalts the Lord,
47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
48 “For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave;
For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.
49 “For the Mighty One has done great things for me;
And holy is His name.

Background

Mary visited Elizabeth, her cousin and was greeted by an exhilarated baby in Elizabeth’s womb. Mary recited a song praising God for His favour upon her and for the people. Indeed, Mary is the human vessel through which Jesus, the omnipotent God is birthed. Today’s devotion teaches us that human frailty is the foundation through which divine power becomes manifested in the world.

Observation

For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave… For the Mighty One has done great things for me.

Mary, having heard the words of Elizabeth burst into song exalting and rejoicing in God. She declares God as her Saviour for He has esteemed her highly despite her humble state. Indeed, God does not judge a person according to his social status, moral condition, abilities, racial or religious backgrounds, but the posture of his heart. Mary’s humble state has become the foundation through which the mighty works of God are wrought. By virtue of the mighty works that were done through a humble vessel, Mary will be honoured forever.

Truth

Human frailty is the foundation through which divine power becomes manifested in the world.

Indeed, Mary is the human vessel through which Jesus, the omnipotent God is birthed. Paul taught,

And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. Ephesians 1:22-23.

Divine power must be birthed and manifested in the world through frail human vessels. Human frailty is the foundation through which divine power manifest itself in the world. Indeed, Mary is the quintessence of human frailty for she is first a woman in a male dominated culture, scantly educated, and of humble background. Jesus Himself was beset with human weaknesses, and his disciples were mere fishermen. In the eyes of the Jewish society, they were ignoble being numbered with scums, sinners and tax collectors. Yet, the power of God is displayed through their seemingly awkward and unpolished demeanour. The psalmist said,

From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength because of Your adversaries, to make the enemy and the revengeful cease. Psalm 8:2

What are these human weaknesses? They include the propensity to feel discouragement, despair, distress as well as bodily weaknesses. When Paul was tormented by the agents of Satan, he asked God to remove the human weaknesses from him. However, Jesus said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9. Our human weaknesses are in fact the seed of God’s power without which, divine power has no foundation. As Paul becomes determined to embrace his weaknesses and boasts in them, he experiences greater manifestations of divine power. Jesus, was crucified openly and in that sense, He boasted of His human weaknesses that became His resurrection. Should our human weaknesses be removed, we cease to become vessels of divine power. Therefore, we must be humble in boasting in our weaknesses and not despise them. For our weaknesses will certainly lead to unprecedented manifestations of divine power.

Many are afraid to acknowledge their inadequacies for fear that they may suddenly lose control, self-confidence or respect. They hold up their frame by forcibly putting on a strong front not knowing what else they can do. For they do not yet understand how by acknowledging their weaknesses they may become strong. Indeed, when Paul said, “for when I am weak, then I am strong”, he really meant it! That said, the bible describes the proud as one who refuses to acknowledge his weaknesses. Such pride themselves on human supremacy refusing to give God the glory. The humble, on the other hand openly acknowledge their weaknesses and failings because they are true to themselves. God esteems their honesty and humility and grants them grace. Peter taught,

God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time. 1 Peter 5:5-6

Divine power and wisdom arise from divine virtues of faith and perseverance.

That said, how do we facilitate the manifestation of divine power through our weaknesses? Make no mistake about it: divine power does not equate strength. Many in wanting to possess divine power accentuate their strengths while masking their weaknesses. However, Paul said in defence of his apostleship, “The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles.” (2 Corinthians 12:12). Indeed, the source of his divine power comes not by social approval or display of strength but by faith and perseverance. Faith pertains to the motives and posture of one’s heart. It answers the question: why we do what we do? Perseverance, on the other hand is persistence to the course despite difficulties or delay in achieving success. That said, it is important to note that faith must come before perseverance. Unless we possess faith; the right motive, perseverance to the course becomes meaningless.

Many tried in vain to obtain divine power through “training” and “practice” supposing it can be obtained by learning the right methods. They attach themselves as “disciples” to gifted ministers with the intention to “obtain” divine power through their mentoring. Such do not have faith as their seeming submission to authority is based on a personal agenda apart from the vision of the organisation. Mary had no training or practice nor did she pursue divine power. But she was granted the highest honour in bringing forth the omnipotent God into the world.

Application

How do we facilitate the manifestation of divine power through our weaknesses?

  • Firstly, we must humbly acknowledge our weaknesses knowing that our failings are foundations of divine power.
  • Secondly, we must boast of our weaknesses and be contented with them. Here, we no longer try to escape from our circumstances or to seek distraction from our despair but rather embrace them.
  • Thirdly, focus not on obtaining power and ability but rather pursue the virtues of faith and perseverance.

Dear Lord, I appreciate that my shortcomings are foundations through which divine power are manifested in the world. I am determined to pursue the virtues of faith and perseverance. Pour down from heaven divine wisdom and power through which I may become a worthy vessel for your use. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.

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Genesis 48:8-22 The greatest legacy we can leave for our children is the testimony of divine faithfulness, wisdom and authority

Genesis 48:8-22  The greatest legacy we can leave for our children is the testimony of divine faithfulness, wisdom and authority

8 When Israel saw Joseph’s sons, he said, “Who are these?” 9 Joseph said to his father, “They are my sons, whom God has given me here.” So he said, “Bring them to me, please, that I may bless them.” 10 Now the eyes of Israel were so dim from age that he could not see. Then Joseph brought them close to him, and he kissed them and embraced them. 11 Israel said to Joseph, “I never expected to see your face, and behold, God has let me see your children as well.” 12 Then Joseph took them from his knees, and bowed with his face to the ground. 13 Joseph took them both, Ephraim with his right hand toward Israel’s left, and Manasseh with his left hand toward Israel’s right, and brought them close to him. 14 But Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand on Manasseh’s head, crossing his hands, although Manasseh was the firstborn. 15 He blessed Joseph, and said,

“The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked,
The God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day,
16 The angel who has redeemed me from all evil,
Bless the lads;
And may my name live on in them,
And the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac;
And may they grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.”

17 When Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on Ephraim’s head, it displeased him; and he grasped his father’s hand to remove it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. 18 Joseph said to his father, “Not so, my father, for this one is the firstborn. Place your right hand on his head.” 19 But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know; he also will become a people and he also will be great. However, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations.” 20 He blessed them that day, saying,

“By you Israel will pronounce blessing, saying,
‘May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh!’”

Thus he put Ephraim before Manasseh. 21 Then Israel said to Joseph, “Behold, I am about to die, but God will be with you, and bring you back to the land of your fathers. 22 I give you one portion more than your brothers, which I took from the hand of the Amorite with my sword and my bow.”

Background

Jacob defied convention by choosing to exalt Ephraim over Manasseh, the first born. The manner in which the blessing was invoked speaks of the legacy that Jacob has left for his descendants. The greatest legacy any man can leave for his children is the testimony of divine faithfulness, wisdom and authority.

Observation

“Bring them to me, please, that I may bless them.”

After promoting Ephraim and Manasseh, Jacob proceeded to bless them. Joseph put Manasseh, the first born under Jacob’s right hand to receive the greater blessing. But Jacob unexpectedly crossed his hand so that Ephraim might receive the greater blessing instead of Manasseh. Jacob blessed Joseph by invoking the name of God in a tripartite structure. In so doing, Jacob ascribed to God the divine qualities of faithfulness, wisdom and power.

  • Faithfulness: The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked. God has been faithful to the covenant that He made with Abraham, Isaac and himself.
  • Wisdom: The God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day. God guided him throughout his life and saved the entire household from famine.
  • Power: The angel who has redeemed me from all evil. God protected him from the clutches of his uncle (Genesis 31:42) and later from his brother, Esau (Genesis 32,33).

“And may my name live on in them…” signifies the transference to the boys God’s covenantal favour with Jacob and the fathers. The resources that Israel possessed would mean nothing without the covenantal favour of God.

When Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on Ephraim’s head, it displeased him.

Joseph’s reaction mirrors that of the forefathers (Abraham and Isaac) who are reluctant to exalt another above the first born son. “It displeased him” literally means “it was evil in his eyes.” Jacob, having divine authority overrides the ruler of Egypt. God’s wisdom and sovereignty supersede social convention and human preferences. Abel versus Cain, Isaac versus Ishmael, Jacob versus Esau, Perez versus Zerah, Joseph versus Reuben, and Ephraim versus Manasseh. Jacob, filled with divine insight, placed Ephraim before Manasseh making him greater than his brother. Eventually, the tribe of Ephraim gained numerical superiority and embodied northern Israel.

“By you Israel will pronounce blessing, saying, ‘May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh!’” makes Joseph’s descendants the quintessence of God’s fertility and blessing.

Truth

The greatest legacy we can leave for our children is the testimony of divine faithfulness, wisdom and authority.

Jacob, in invoking the name of God in a tripartite fashion leaves a legacy that helped Israel as a nation survive the rigours of time. Similarly, when others witness the testimony of God’s faithfulness, wisdom and authority through our lives, we leave behind a lasting legacy. Indeed, the virtues of faithfulness, wisdom and a sense of authority cannot stand apart from the Divine. In other words, unless we experience God’s faithfulness, wisdom in challenging situations and divine authority over the angels, we leave nothing of value for our children. Many prided themselves on their achievements and virtues expecting their children and disciples to emulate them. However, people do not believe what they hear, but what they see in our manner of life. Any attempt to draw others towards our personal righteousness will certainly fall flat and backfire.

Therefore, as fathers and leaders, we must point our children and disciples to God. In so doing, we teach them to depend on God who is ever faithful to His word. In every difficult situation, to be at peace knowing that God is in control and will provide wisdom for breakthrough. And at the same time, know how to take authority over the angels to push back the forces of evil. Human beings are imperfect and beset with flaws, but God is perfect and worthy of following. Even for Jesus, when He was called “Good Teacher” responded, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone…” Luke 18:19.

Nothing can stand in the way of God’s sovereign election over our lives except us.

Joseph’s resolve to exalt Manasseh, his first born over Ephraim could not deter God’s sovereign election over Ephraim. This, Jacob knew full well having been cast aside by his own father in preference for his older brother Esau. Indeed, the sovereign election of God cannot be stopped or altered by human devices. Social convention, human bias, must not discourage us from seeking God’s favour and election. Paul teaches that God has predestined every believer for a high calling according to the calling of His Son,

For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. Romans 8:29-30 (NASB)

Therefore, we must be faithful to bear fruit where we are planted. In following the narrow path that He has predestined, we may in due time arrive at that place of high calling and glory. However, many, in desiring a more glamorous and exciting route, unwittingly strayed from God’s predestined path for them. Consequently, they missed out on the high call and the glory that God has intended.

That said, how do we operate within the structure of human organisations? How do we relate to human authorities? Our bosses and mentors are mere vessels that God uses to equip and prepare us for the high call. But, we do not depend on them for promotion or reward for our work. For God Himself will in His way vindicate and exalt us. The apostle Paul said,

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. Colossians 3:23-24 (NASB)

Many in their desire to get ahead, angle their way into the bosses good books by cunning. Such may have gotten the favour of men, but pass up on the high call that God has intended.

Application

1.  Are you influenced by social convention or personal bias to exalt one over another? As mothers, fathers and leaders, our goal is not to exalt but rather to equip and prepare our children and disciples for the high call. Therefore, in matters that concern promotion, we must discard human bias and go entirely on divine directives.

2.  How do you prepare your children and disciples to meet their high calling?

  • Teach them divine faithfulness: how they can be at peace and wait for divine intervention, having done their utmost.
  • Teach them wisdom: how they can receive divine wisdom in the face of dire circumstances.
  • Teach them divine authority: how they (having understood divine wisdom) can exercise authority over the angels and the elements of the earth (see Mark 11:23).

Dear Lord, I thank you for predestining me for the high call. I endeavour to walk on the narrow path even though I do not understand it. Help me to persevere in the light of your faithfulness. Help me to understand divine wisdom and your mysterious ways. Help me to exercise divine authority over angels and the elements of the earth. Cause me to leave an enduring legacy for my church and my children. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.

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Luke 1:26-38 God dispenses grace according to the posture of our hearts

Luke 1:26-38  God dispenses grace according to the posture of our hearts

26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33 and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. 36 And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God. 38 And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Background

God sends the archangel Gabriel to a virgin girl of remarkable spiritual perceptivity, and with great favour announces the conception of His Son, Jesus. Today’s devotion teaches us that God dispenses grace according to the posture of one’s heart.

Observation

“Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”

God chose a certain virgin (a young woman who has never engaged in sexual intercourse) named Mary and sent Gabriel the archangel to her. The archangel’s greetings addressed Mary as one who is highly favoured. Mary was shocked because she has never seen herself as one who is favoured by God. Mary, a simple woman in her youth with no earthly achievements received God’s highest favour.

And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus.

Following the salutation was the announcement to conceive a son and name Him Jesus. And He will be divine (Son of the most High), and will reign over Israel forever. The depiction of Jesus is one who will exercise kingly dominion over an eternal kingdom.

“How can this be, since I am a virgin?”

Mary’s question arose from the fact that she, being unmarried was disqualified from the task of childbearing. The angel responded with an astounding directive that she would conceive by power of the Holy Spirit. And only by way of this conception can the Son of God be incarnated into the world: for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.

“Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.”

Mary’s response (despite her youth) revealed her extraordinary qualities of courage and spiritual perceptivity. Despite the enormity and the impossibility of what lies ahead, she needed no convincing but accepted the mission.

What is the favour of God?

Favour, synonymous with the word grace comes from the God of love who desires all to be saved. Favour or grace comes from the Greek word charis, which connotes blessing, and kindness. God’s ultimate display of favour is in the giving of His Son, Jesus Christ. In so doing, man’s heart may be regenerated towards peace with God and through perseverance obtain eternal glory. The evangelist wrote,

For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. John 1:16-17 (NASB)

Here, the grace of Jesus is contrasted with the Law of Moses. The Law punishes man for their transgressions. But it has no power to regenerate man’s heart from wickedness towards righteousness. On the other hand, the grace of Christ frees man to choose righteousness while turning away from wickedness. Grace imbues man with divine virtues, wisdom and power to accomplish His will.

Elsewhere in the bible, divine grace or favour is manifested in the following:

  • Protection and safety (Genesis 6:8, Noah)
  • Protection and promotion (Genesis 39:21, Joseph)
  • Protection and liberation (Exodus 2:25, Israel in Egypt)
  • Acts of salvation (Exodus 33:12, Moses)
  • Wisdom for righteous repute and divine promotion (1 Samuel 2:26, Samuel)
  • Restoration and prosperity (Psalm 67:1)
  • Revival and salvation (Isaiah 33:2, Isaiah’s prayer for revival)
  • Prosperity of the nation (Isaiah 62:4, Isaiah’s prophecy)
  • Revelation and salvation (Daniel 9:17, Daniel’s prayer for revival)
  • Wisdom for righteous repute and anointing (Luke 2:52, Jesus)
  • Strength and faith to accomplish God’s calling (1 Corinthians 15:10, Paul)
  • Regeneration and salvation (Ephesians 2:8)
  • To imbue man with Christ’s attributes to obtain eternal glory and honour (1 Peter 5:10)

That said, divine favour is not given uniformly to all people. But to those who possess a pure heart, who are courageous and who love God single-mindedly, He grants them unreserved favour.

Truth

God became human so that through grace man may become divine

The manner in which Jesus is conceived attests to His divinity and humanity: The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. It is indeed the Holy Spirit that conceived Jesus, the divine-human.

What are the implications of Jesus’s incarnation? The apostle Paul taught that only in God becoming a divine-human (fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form… Colossians 2:9) can He do the following:

  • Make man complete, which is to become righteous and divine as Christ is (Colossians 2:10,12,13)
  • Disarmed demonic rulers, and rule over them (Colossians 2:10,15)
  • Canceled out the certificate of debt (curse of sin) on man’s behalf (Colossians 2:14)

Unless God put on the likeness of sinful flesh (Romans 8:2), there is no way God can exercise His saving power or omnipotence over humanity. Christ’s saving grace is to result in making sinful man divine. Man, in becoming divine, can begin to live out Christ’s virtues, wisdom and power.

Many churchgoers having misunderstood the gospel, do not endeavour to live out Christ’s virtues, wisdom and power. The end of faith for them is not to become divine, but rather to escape the torment of hell. Regrettably, grace for them is nothing more than an unconditional pass into heaven. But the purpose of grace is to make man perfect and divine in the likeness of Christ, the divine-human.

God dispenses grace according to the posture of man’s hearts

The angel’s salutation speaks (“Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.”) of Mary as possessor of unprecedented honour and favour. Certainly, as mother of the Son of God, she would require an unlimited supply of divine grace. The question: how did God arrive at the decision of having Mary as the mother of Jesus? She is supposed to be a young girl of scant education and of humble background. But shouldn’t one who is more educated and of more priestly descent be more suited for the role? To strike a comparison, take Zacharias, the chief priest who met the same angel six months before… who despite years of religiosity, pales in comparison with youthful Mary in areas of faith and spiritual perceptivity. Zacharias’s unbelief was revealed by the archangel’s response, “… because you did not believe my words” (Luke 1:20). Whereas Mary responded with faith, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.”

God dispenses grace NOT unconditionally, but conditioned upon the posture of a man’s heart. Mary is a woman of remarkable spiritual perceptivity, being wholly dedicated to God’s service. It is no wonder that Mary is granted unprecedented honour and grace. Therefore, believers seeking divine favour must do all to set their hearts right before God and men. Many despite praying for a long time did not receive divine favour. The issue is with their hearts’ posture, many of whom are self-serving while having little regard for God’s kingdom work. The apostle James said, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.” James 4:3. When Esau and Jacob were born, God predestined their paths even before they did anything good or evil. For Jacob who fears God, He loves and predestines him for greatness. As for Esau, despite his father’s preferential treatment descended into historical oblivion.

Application

1.  When you see faithful believers suffer, do you wonder if God is just and active? When you see evil people grow in fame and riches, do you wonder if God is blind? Is a life of comfort and riches sure evidence of divine favour? Do not fret when the wicked seem to prosper, but continue in the way of righteousness. For God promises that the righteous will surely be vindicated. The psalmist wrote,

Do not fret because of evildoers,
Be not envious toward wrongdoers.
For they will wither quickly like the grass
And fade like the green herb.
Trust in the Lord and do good;
Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord;
And He will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it. Psalm 37:1-5 (NASV)

2.  How can believers obtain divine favour? By doing the following:

  • By the prayers of faithful believers. (Exodus 33:12, Isaiah 33:2, Daniel 9:17).
  • By fearing God and living in truth and righteousness (Proverbs 3:4, 8:35, 12:2).
  • By continually devoting oneself to the work of the gospel (Luke 2:52).

Dear Lord, as I humble myself, I sanctify my heart with your truth. Grant me grace so that I may live out the virtues of Christ in love and purity… to exercise divine wisdom to overcome the evil one… to exercise authority over the elements of the earth. Use me as a channel of divine grace to the poor and marginalised. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.

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Genesis 48:1-7  The future of any nation hinges on the rectitude and vision of its sons

Genesis 48:1-7  The future of any nation hinges on the rectitude and vision of its sons

Now it came about after these things that Joseph was told, “Behold, your father is sick.” So he took his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim with him. 2 When it was told to Jacob, “Behold, your son Joseph has come to you,” Israel collected his strength and sat up in the bed. 3 Then Jacob said to Joseph, “God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan and blessed me, 4 and He said to me, ‘Behold, I will make you fruitful and numerous, and I will make you a company of peoples, and will give this land to your descendants after you for an everlasting possession.’ 5 Now your two sons, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine; Ephraim and Manasseh shall be mine, as Reuben and Simeon are. 6 But your offspring that have been born after them shall be yours; they shall be called by the names of their brothers in their inheritance. 7 Now as for me, when I came from Paddan, Rachel died, to my sorrow, in the land of Canaan on the journey, when there was still some distance to go to Ephrath; and I buried her there on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem).”

Background

As Jacob’s death nears, Joseph is summoned to his death-bed with his two sons. Jacob adopts Joseph’s sons as his own making them founders of the tribes of Israel. Joseph has since trained up his sons with rectitude and vision to help Israel face an uncertain future. And God, by His sovereign hand raised up the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh to help the other tribes conquer the land of Canaan. Today’s devotion teaches us that the future of any nation hinges on the rectitude and vision of its sons.

Observation

Now it came about after these things that Joseph was told, “Behold, your father is sick.”

When Joseph was told of his father’s imminent passing (your father is sick) he did what was of paramount importance to Israel; he brought his sons to Jacob for the patriarchal blessing. It is not clear if Jacob expected the presence of Joseph’s two sons. As it appeared, that was no ordinary meeting as Jacob set the stage for the adoption of Ephraim and Manasseh.

Jacob first establishes his patriarchal authority by recounting God’s bestowment upon him the Abrahamic blessing at Luz. As possessor of the covenant, he becomes the conduit through which the Abrahamic blessing flow.

Now your two sons, who were born to you in the land of Egypt before I came to you in Egypt, are mine.

Having validated his patriarchal authority, Jacob proceeded to adopt Joseph’s sons as his own: Ephraim and Manasseh shall be mine. In so doing, he promoted them to the same level as his eldest sons, Reuben and Simeon. By putting them on par with their uncles, he made them founders of their respective tribes. Here, Joseph becomes heir of a double portion of the land. Because Levi received no share of the land, the total number of tribal allotments remains twelve. Nevertheless, Joseph’s subsequent offspring will fold under the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh: they shall be called by the names of their brothers in their inheritance. Jacob’s recounting of Rachel’s untimely death inferred that Ephraim and Manasseh have effectively become legitimate sons of Rachel. By this time, Ephraim and Manasseh were about twenty years of age.

Truth

The future of any nation hinges on the rectitude and vision of its sons

By virtue of Joseph’s political stature, wisdom and spiritual maturity, the house of Joseph is well positioned to play a major role in the future of Israel. Indeed, the prosperity of any nation hinges on the rectitude and vision of its leaders. Being sons of Joseph, the boys were personally coached by their father who was accorded with divine status; the saviour of Egypt.

Many today spend their time building their earthly empire while neglecting their own spiritual condition. Hence, apart from the earthly, they really have nothing to offer their children and protégés. Their spirits, starved for power and material wealth could hardly make a stand for the truth, let alone the task of raising up successors with rectitude and vision. They merely replicate their spirit in their sons who will be no better. After they pass on, their successors cannot quite rise up to the level required of them. Subsequently, their organisations dry up for lack of vision and implode because of infighting.

Joseph trained up his children with rectitude and vision to help Israel face an uncertain future. And God, by His sovereign hand raised up the the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh to help Israel conquer the land of Canaan. Subsequently, Ephraim became the most dominant tribe that embodied the northern kingdom of Israel. And Manasseh at its height occupied territories spanning both sides of the Jordan from the east to the west (see the map below).

Therefore, children in their quest for academic excellence must not neglect their character development that will singularly bring enduring prosperity. Academic results may reveal an expertise in a certain field, but only men and women of rectitude and vision can receive divine favour to change the world.

Application

Are you accustomed to putting your children’s academic pursuits above their spiritual development? If you are a church leader, are you accustomed to running church programmes while neglecting your own spiritual growth? Do all to build up your spirit man and train up your children and disciples according to the truth. Put wisdom above intelligence, virtues above abilities and mercy above justice.

Dear Lord, I understand the importance of raising up future leaders that possess rectitude and vision. Cause me to grow in wisdom, mercy and courage so that I may be an example for the young. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.

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Genesis 47:28-31 Maintaining contentment towards earthly things, and holy discontentment towards the heavenly

Genesis 47:28-31 Maintaining contentment towards earthly things, and holy discontentment towards the heavenly

28 Jacob lived in the land of Egypt seventeen years; so the length of Jacob’s life was one hundred and forty-seven years. 29 When the time for Israel to die drew near, he called his son Joseph and said to him, “Please, if I have found favor in your sight, place now your hand under my thigh and deal with me in kindness and faithfulness. Please do not bury me in Egypt, 30 but when I lie down with my fathers, you shall carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burial place.” And he said, “I will do as you have said.” 31 He said, “Swear to me.” So he swore to him. Then Israel bowed in worship at the head of the bed.

Background

Jacob’s wish to be buried in his homeland serves as an enduring epitaph to God’s faithfulness towards Israel through which humanity may be saved. Today’s devotion teaches us to be content towards earthly things and to be discontent while pursuing the things of heaven.

Observation

Please do not bury me in Egypt,… you shall carry me out of Egypt and bury me in their burial place.

After reuniting with his favourite son, Jacob lived another 17 years in the land of Egypt. When the end of his days drew near, he called Joseph and sought to be buried in his homeland, the Promised Land. And Jacob’s insistence on an oath communicates the seriousness of it. The question: what motivated Jacob’s decision to be buried in Canaan, (not only for him, but also for the patriarchs that went before)?

  • Familial sentimentalism: There is no place like home. Thus, he sought to be buried in his homeland.
  • Personal honour: By being buried with the founding fathers, he would be honoured as patriarch of Israel.
  • Faith: To erect a lasting monument so as to inspire faith in future generations towards God’s promises.

By observation, Jacob was sentimental, not towards his homeland but Rachel and her sons, particularly, Joseph. At Joseph’s invitation to migrate to Egypt, Jacob appeared hesitant not because of his preoccupation with Canaan per se, but with seeing Joseph and God’s covenantal presence. Not until when God appeared and gave His expressed permission did his trepidation ease. Throughout his life, he has also not shown himself to be obsessed with his personal honour as well. Thus, by insisting to be buried in Canaan, Jacob intends to erect a perpetual epitaph pointing to the Abrahamic covenant through which all the families of the earth will be blessed.

Truth

Maintaining contentment towards earthly things, and holy discontentment towards the heavenly.

Throughout Jacob’s life, he encountered a myriad of trials: his flight to Mesopotamia, an unintended marriage, the rape of his daughter, untimely death of his wife and strife among his sons that led to the estrangement of his favourite son. He also faced temptations, having prospered exceedingly (see Genesis 30:43). Through it all, Jacob was not bitter towards God nor was he drawn to the world. For he maintained a contentment towards earthly things and a holy discontentment in pursuing the Abrahamic vision (see Genesis 12:1-3, 35:9-12). This is evident by his longing to return to the Promised Land to be buried there.

Faith must be refined and proven through a myriad of trials and temptations. Trials and temptations subject the believer to a tension of things: transcient and eternal, earthly and heavenly, fleshly and spiritual, self-centredness and love. It is under this tension that the believer undergoes the test of faith. As he progresses in his journey, the dichotomy of things (transcient and eternal) become increasingly acute while the stakes appear higher. Jacob had to choose for his family to remain in prosperous and earthly Egypt or to return to the spartan Canaan (which is a type of God’s kingdom). And Jacob made that choice by way of his burial decision.

Many churchgoers appear to be kingdom minded, but their hearts are secretly longing for the riches of Egypt (which is a type of the world). Hence, they suppose that godliness is a means of gain (see 1 Timothy 6:5). Such carry a form of godliness but devoid of the truth and essence of Christ. Paul taught about being content, “For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.” 1 Timothy 6:7-8. Therefore, whether rich or poor, believers must learn to be content.

That said, concerning earthly wealth, we must be content. But concerning the virtues and abilities of Christ, we must maintain a holy discontent and pursue them relentlessly. Paul spoke about a constant hunger for the perfection of Christ that became the source of his motivations,

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12

Therefore, the believer must guard the posture of his heart until his very last breath. One who shifts his heart towards the world will inevitably pierce himself with many sorrows (see 1 Timothy 6:10). Not only that, he will lose the anointing and his place in the kingdom. The apostle John posts an explicit warning concerning the removal of the believer’s standing in the kingdom,

But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent. Revelation 2:4-5

Application

That said, what should believers do? Paul encourages believers to pursue divine love and supernatural abilities. Christ’s love and abilities which is found in His blood are shed into the believer’s life through the Holy Spirit. The fruit of Jesus’s death and resurrection is evident in the believer’s ability to love and to exhibit His supernatural power. Paul said concerning the believer’s pursuit and desire,

“Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts.” 1 Corinthians 14:1a

Whatever our circumstances may be, whether in lack or in abundance, in health or sickness, let us be godly and content. In so doing, we may be blessed to become living epitaphs that point many to the eternal kingdom.

Dear Lord, I return my focus to the divine within me; Christ’s love and abilities. I endeavour not to allow my current circumstances, favourable or unfavourable to derail my pursuit of divine love and abilities, but to allow these circumstances to refine me. Hence, in every situation, I shall give thanks. Use my life as a pointer and inspiration for many to the way of the kingdom. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.

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How Should Believers Pray Differently From Non-Believers – Ps Gabriel Chan

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