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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Genesis 47:11-27 God blesses those who has faith in Him and who are loyal to their church

Genesis 47:11-27 God blesses those who has faith in Him and who are loyal to their church

11 So Joseph settled his father and his brothers and gave them a possession in the land of Egypt, in the best of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had ordered. 12 Joseph provided his father and his brothers and all his father’s household with food, according to their little ones.

13 Now there was no food in all the land, because the famine was very severe, so that the land of Egypt and the land of Canaan languished because of the famine. 14 Joseph gathered all the money that was found in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan for the grain which they bought, and Joseph brought the money into Pharaoh’s house. 15 When the money was all spent in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan, all the Egyptians came to Joseph and said, “Give us food, for why should we die in your presence? For our money is gone.” 16 Then Joseph said, “Give up your livestock, and I will give you food for your livestock, since your money is gone.” 17 So they brought their livestock to Joseph, and Joseph gave them food in exchange for the horses and the flocks and the herds and the donkeys; and he fed them with food in exchange for all their livestock that year. 18 When that year was ended, they came to him the next year and said to him, “We will not hide from my lord that our money is all spent, and the cattle are my lord’s. There is nothing left for my lord except our bodies and our lands. 19 Why should we die before your eyes, both we and our land? Buy us and our land for food, and we and our land will be slaves to Pharaoh. So give us seed, that we may live and not die, and that the land may not be desolate.”

20 So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh, for every Egyptian sold his field, because the famine was severe upon them. Thus the land became Pharaoh’s. 21 As for the people, he removed them to the cities from one end of Egypt’s border to the other. 22 Only the land of the priests he did not buy, for the priests had an allotment from Pharaoh, and they lived off the allotment which Pharaoh gave them. Therefore, they did not sell their land. 23 Then Joseph said to the people, “Behold, I have today bought you and your land for Pharaoh; now, here is seed for you, and you may sow the land. 24 At the harvest you shall give a fifth to Pharaoh, and four-fifths shall be your own for seed of the field and for your food and for those of your households and as food for your little ones.” 25 So they said, “You have saved our lives! Let us find favor in the sight of my lord, and we will be Pharaoh’s slaves.” 26 Joseph made it a statute concerning the land of Egypt valid to this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth; only the land of the priests did not become Pharaoh’s. 27 Now Israel lived in the land of Egypt, in Goshen, and they acquired property in it and were fruitful and became very numerous.

Background

By virtue of their relationship with Joseph, the Israelites received provisions of food and were granted the best of the land. So much so their privileges stood in stark contrast with the average Egyptian as they were accorded with rights equal to that of priests. The Israelites received divine protection from the famine because they had faith in the God of Abraham and were loyal to one another. In today’s devotion, we learn that faith in God and loyalty to men are critical components to experiencing divine abundance as God has intended.

Observation

So Joseph settled his father and his brothers and gave them a possession in the land of Egypt.

The holy family was given special privileges, more rights than the typical Egyptian. Firstly, they were given land (Joseph… gave them a possession in the land of Egypt), not just any land but the best of the land. Secondly, they were given food without the mention of them paying for it (Joseph provided his father and his brothers and all his father’s household with food). The privileges were accorded by virtue of their relationship with Joseph who was seen as the saviour in Egypt.

Now there was no food in all the land, because the famine was very severe.

The famine systematically depleted the resources of the people inevitably ceding their land and themselves to state control. First, the Egyptians exchange money for food (v.13-14). Then, they mortgaged herds for grain (v.15-17). And they eventually mortgaged their land and became slaves for food (v.18-26). Considering their current predicament, the arrangement was considered an act of mercy. As royal slaves, they need not be concerned about food supply, for that has become the Pharaoh’s responsibility. In exchange for their land, they were given food and seed for sowing of which 80% of the yield would be retained by the grower saved 20% to be given to the state. What Joseph had instituted expediently by way of the famine has become the basis of the 20% income tax in Egypt: Joseph made it a statute concerning the land of Egypt valid to this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth.

As for the people, he removed them to the cities from one end of Egypt’s border to the other.

The priests of the land had special privileges and were given food. Hence, they need not sell their land: for the priests had an allotment from Pharaoh, and they lived off the allotment which Pharaoh gave them. But the rest of the people had to cede land to the state in exchange for food. And this gave the state the right to relocate the population for national interests. This is not uncommon, for we have seen instances in parts of the world where whole villages were relocated for labour distribution or for land planning purposes.

Now Israel lived in the land of Egypt, in Goshen, and they acquired property in it and were fruitful and became very numerous.

The Israelites were fruitful and became very numerous while the rest of the nation languished in famine. Both the Israelites and the Egyptians dwell in proximity to each other and lived under the same weather condition. But the life in Goshen is abundant and free whereas the rest of Egypt live in utter poverty and slavery. Israel’s fruitfulness can only be attributed to none other than divine intervention and favour. Joseph’s intervention gave the Israelites a reprieve, but divine provision, made them exceedingly fruitful and numerous.

Truth

God blesses those who has faith in Him and who are loyal to their church.

Joseph’s family enjoyed special rights for they had food and settled in the best of the land. Israel’s treatment stood in stark contrast with the average Egyptian for they were accorded with privileges almost equal to that of priests. It is important to note that the privileges the Israelites enjoyed was only by virtue of their familial relationship with Joseph, the saviour of all the land. And not forgetting that Joseph was providentially raised up as saviour because he is the son of Jacob, the possessor of the Abrahamic covenant.

There is a system through which divine blessing and protection are accorded; they are not equally experienced by all people. Divine blessing is founded first by faith in Jesus Christ and realised through loyalty to a physical church on earth. Both faith in Christ and loyalty to the local church are necessary components to experiencing grace as God intended. Faith, which acknowledges Christ as the Lord and Saviour grants the believer entrance into God’s kingdom. But unless he develops submission and loyalty to the church and to the pastor, he cannot experience grace as God has intended. Even as the believer’s faith is in God, divine blessings flow through channels of those divinely designated as the anointed in their respective churches. God declared to Jacob, ”And in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed” Genesis 28:14b. Jesus said to Peter, ”You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” Matthew 16:18. This timeless system through which believers receive divine grace in the Old Testament and the New Testament times continues to operate today.

Many churchgoers harbour no loyalty to the church or to their pastor, their loyalty is to a personal agenda or to certain ideals. Hence, they are inclined to “friendship” and “personal vision” as opposed to submission and loyalty; they are present to serve themselves, not the church. Thus, many come to a “middle ground” as opposed to wholehearted loyalty to the church’s vision. Even if they do settle in a place of choice, their self-centred mindset continues. As a result, they cannot experience in full what God had intended for them. Should the twelve sons of Jacob fail in their test of loyalty to one another as occasioned by Joseph, they would not have survived the famine. The psalmist sang about the abundance of blessing upon a united people,

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
For brothers to dwell together in unity!
It is like the precious oil upon the head,
Coming down upon the beard,
Even Aaron’s beard,
Coming down upon the edge of his robes.
It is like the dew of Hermon
Coming down upon the mountains of Zion;
For there the Lord commanded the blessing—life forever. Psalms 133

That said, the believer’s loyalty must not arise from human sentiment but from his faith in the truth; as long as the believer understands faith and loyalty, it matters less which church he goes to. As long as the church teaches the truth, it will draw people of the truth and loyalty no matter how unglamorous the church may appear. For people must be united by the truth as opposed to form or culture. Nevertheless, if the church persevere in teaching and living out the truth, they will grow and eventually become mighty in the land.

The Israelites were despised and sneered upon by the Egyptians as detestable in their trade. However, their prosperity by virtue of their faith and loyalty to one another is evident to all. One cannot help but notice in today’s Israel, their enduring distinctive of faith and loyalty that made them what they are, a strong and prosperous nation.

Application

Do you see the church as a means to fulfil your personal agenda and need? The church serves to fulfill the following objectives:

  • To teach truths that will enable discernment towards a prosperous and blessed life.
  • To function as a channel of divine grace and provision for abundant living.
  • To serve as a means through which believers serve and fulfil their calling.

The believer expresses faith and loyalty in the following ways:

  • He diligently clarifies what is taught by the church. He studies the word to find out if what is taught is true. And he actively teaches it to others.
  • He is sensitive to other people’s needs and that of the leaders. Loyalty translates into carrying for others.
  • He is committed to the church’s local and overseas ministries and actively contributes to it.

Dear Lord, I thank you that my faith is built on your word and I express my faith by being loyal to the church that you have planted me in. Cause me to persevere in doing what is right to establish your kingdom. Bless me and protect my family, my church and my community from famine and dangers. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.

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Genesis 46:28 – 47:12 Those who are eternally blessed wear their glory on the inside

Genesis 46:28 – 47:12 Those who are eternally blessed wear their glory on the inside

28 Now he sent Judah before him to Joseph, to point out the way before him to Goshen; and they came into the land of Goshen. 29 Joseph prepared his chariot and went up to Goshen to meet his father Israel; as soon as he appeared before him, he fell on his neck and wept on his neck a long time. 30 Then Israel said to Joseph, “Now let me die, since I have seen your face, that you are still alive.” 31 Joseph said to his brothers and to his father’s household, “I will go up and tell Pharaoh, and will say to him, ‘My brothers and my father’s household, who were in the land of Canaan, have come to me; 32 and the men are shepherds, for they have been keepers of livestock; and they have brought their flocks and their herds and all that they have.’ 33 When Pharaoh calls you and says, ‘What is your occupation?’ 34 you shall say, ‘Your servants have been keepers of livestock from our youth even until now, both we and our fathers,’ that you may live in the land of Goshen; for every shepherd is loathsome to the Egyptians.”

1 Then Joseph went in and told Pharaoh, and said, “My father and my brothers and their flocks and their herds and all that they have, have come out of the land of Canaan; and behold, they are in the land of Goshen.” 2 He took five men from among his brothers and presented them to Pharaoh. 3 Then Pharaoh said to his brothers, “What is your occupation?” So they said to Pharaoh, “Your servants are shepherds, both we and our fathers.” 4 They said to Pharaoh, “We have come to sojourn in the land, for there is no pasture for your servants’ flocks, for the famine is severe in the land of Canaan. Now, therefore, please let your servants live in the land of Goshen.” 5 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Your father and your brothers have come to you. 6 The land of Egypt is at your disposal; settle your father and your brothers in the best of the land, let them live in the land of Goshen; and if you know any capable men among them, then put them in charge of my livestock.”

7 Then Joseph brought his father Jacob and presented him to Pharaoh; and Jacob blessed Pharaoh. 8 Pharaoh said to Jacob, “How many years have you lived?” 9 So Jacob said to Pharaoh, “The years of my sojourning are one hundred and thirty; few and unpleasant have been the years of my life, nor have they attained the years that my fathers lived during the days of their sojourning.” 10 And Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from his presence. 11 So Joseph settled his father and his brothers and gave them a possession in the land of Egypt, in the best of the land, in the land of Rameses, as Pharaoh had ordered. 12 Joseph provided his father and his brothers and all his father’s household with food, according to their little ones.

Background

Joseph’s reunion with Jacob kickoff an era of nation building in the womb of Egypt. Israel, by virtue of their profession as shepherds expediently separated themselves from the Egyptian population by settling in the land of Goshen. The Pharaoh, in all his royalty and grandeur was blessed by Jacob who is possessor of divine blessing. Today’s devotion teaches us that believers must preserve themselves from the love of the world. And those who are eternally blessed wear their glory on the inside.

Observation

Now he sent Judah before him to Joseph, to point out the way before him to Goshen

Judah assumes leadership by virtue of the fact that he is most respected among his brothers. At the wake of the family’s quest for food and their initial struggle with Joseph, Judah’s display of character and wisdom is impressive.

Joseph readied himself for the long awaited reunion with his father. For Jacob, the son he believed to be dead for twenty years now stood before him in all his grandeur. Having reunited with his favourite son, Jacob said that he has no more regrets or unfulfilled desires in his life: Now let me die, since I have seen your face, that you are still alive.

“I will go up and tell Pharaoh, and will say to him, ‘My brothers and my father’s household, who were in the land of Canaan, have come to me”

At the arrival of the holy family, Jospeh went ahead to prepare for their settlement. Joseph had intended for the nation in its infancy to settle in a land apart from the Egyptians at large. In so doing, Israel may continue in its path towards fulfilling Abraham’s promise. As the Egyptians had an inherent distaste for shepherds, it was expedient to seek residence in a place far removed from the population centres. Joseph coached his brothers to engage the Pharoah in a courtly manner while requesting to be located in the land of Goshen. The appointment of Joseph’s brothers to supervise the king’s cattle put into immediate effect the Pharaoh’s authority over the new immigrants.

Then Joseph brought his father Jacob and presented him to Pharaoh

Jacob’s meeting with the Pharaoh was unlike the meeting with the brothers. Here, the atmosphere was more intimate and relaxed. The Pharaoh’s first question revealed his admiration for Jacob’s blessedness as Egyptians had a penchant for longevity. Jacob, at 130 will live another 17 years, well beyond the ideal Eygptian life span of 110 years. However, Jacob brought a poignant reality to his life: few and unpleasant have been the years of my life. … His flight to Mesopotamia, an unintended marriage, the rape of his daughter, and strife among his sons that led to the estrangement of his favourite son. However, his age pales in comparison to Abraham and Isaac, who lived to the age of 175 and 180 respectively. Here, Jacob confessed to his humble state and wore his glory on the inside, not with pomp or outward display of power.

Truth

The people of God must preserve themselves from the love of the world.

The holy family of 70 separated themselves from the Egyptians by locating themselves in the land of Goshen. In so doing, they preserved their virtues and worshiped God according to the Abrahamic covenant. By virtue of that physical separation from the Egyptians, they grew and prospered greatly, numbering over two million 400 years later. Should they mingle with the Egyptians, they would not have prospered as a nation under God.

Similarly, the followers of Jesus Christ must separate themselves from the world. This does not mean that believers can’t exist in close proximity with non-believers. But rather we must be discerning and not be influenced by the culture and mindset of the world. Thus, our separation is not physical but rather in desires and values. The glory of heaven is the love for God, for the truth and for the wellbeing of others. The glory of the world is self-centredness, domination, and fleshly pleasures, the means of which is falsehood. The world tempts us by suggesting that the ways of falsehood carry benefits that may not necessarily lead to death. The world glamourises power, wealth and the pleasures of the flesh. It seeks to blur the line between abundant living and worldly enjoyment. As a result, many fell into its trap losing their reputation, their family and the wealth they have so painstakingly acquired.

It used to be that truth, loyalty and godliness are found in the church. However, the church has increasingly become a place of confusion; the epi-centre of demonic activity. Those who lack discernment will be attracted to an appearance of spiritual vibrancy, and abundance of knowledge. There they begin a process of decay where whatever is left of wisdom, love and the fear of God will be grounded to zero. The end of which is utter failure and the loss of everything true and eternal.

The blessed wear their glory on the inside.

Those who are blessed and led by the Spirit wear their glory on the inside. As much as light is imperceptible to the ear, and sound imperceptible to the eye, heavenly glory is imperceptible to those who are earthly. Heavenly glory is seen through a person’s virtue, wisdom and authority over the elements of the world. Jacob is weak by appearance and completely dependent on the Pharaoh’s goodwill. The Pharaoh, though royal, powerful in appearance and condescending is completely dependent upon Jacob for divine blessing. Jacob is the possessor of divine blessing from whom Egypt derived benefit.

People who wear their glory on the outside do so by flaunting their material possessions and personal achievements. Such seek approval and admiration from the world in order to acquire a sense of dignity and self-worth. It testifies to an inner void that can never be filled with their current devices. But the blessed are steadfast, humble, unperturbed by the fleeting display of worldly glory. The prophet Isaiah said,

The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You. Isaiah 26:3

The steadfast mind is anchored by the word through, the seat of the heavenly glory and eternal blessing. As Jacob brought the heavenly blessing to Pharaoh and his kingdom, believers will likewise bring salvation to the world.

Application

Believers must be vigilant in guarding our minds from lies and falsehood, and our hearts from the love of the world. The devil seeds lies into our minds via suggestions of seemingly “spiritual” people who propagate a life of self-centred gain and compromise, not sacrificial love and holiness. If you ever smell deception, a perversion of God’s truth and grace, flee! Do not open your heart to smooth talkers but rather preserve your heart to love God wholeheartedly and live for Him.

Do you have an irresistible urge to make your good works known to others? Do you often feel insecure while seeking approval from people around you? Such that you lack a sense of peace because of this continual struggle for recognition. Jesus taught that those who sold their earthly possessions, who appeared to be last… will be first. But those who crave for power and possessions, who appeared to be first… will be last.

But many who are first will be last; and the last, first. Matthew 19:30

Dear Lord, I will seek to build the heavenly glory within me and be content with what I possess. Imbue within me the divine wisdom, and the fruit of the Spirit. Cause me to be a blessing to my family, church and workplace. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.

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