1 Corinthians 3:1-23 Seek to align yourself with God, not with men

1 Corinthians 3:1-23 Seek to align yourself with God, not with men

1 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able, 3 for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? 4 For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not mere men?

5 What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. 7 So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. 8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.

10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it. But each man must be careful how he builds on it. 11 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work. 14 If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

16 Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.

18 Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, “He is the one who catches the wise in their craftiness”; 20 and again, “The Lord knows the reasonings of the wise, that they are useless.” 21 So then let no one boast in men. For all things belong to you, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, 23 and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God.

Background

Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers who are embroiled in strife and divisions. He urged them to align themselves with God, not with human leaders. He asserted that each must conduct their ministry and career with divine wisdom, not by worldly wisdom. In so doing, their life’s work may stand the test of fire. Today’s devotion teaches believers to align themselves with God and not with men. By seeking wisdom as their mainstay, they may receive power and authority to succeed in all their endeavours.

Observation

For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?

God’s wisdom is revealed not only in the saving power of the cross but also in the society of believers. Regrettably, Paul could not speak to the Corinthian believers as spiritual but as fleshly in their thoughts and motives of the heart. As evident by their bipartisan and divisive behaviour when they associated themselves with certain prominent leaders: “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos”. Paul condemned such behaviour and clarified the principles of work and christian leadership.

Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor.

Paul and Apollos are not divided but interdependent in their roles with regards to the kingdom’s work. It is in fact God who ultimately caused the work of both ministers to bear fruit. The motive behind these Corinthian believers was far from noble for they were self-serving. They created divisions along known leaders in order to garner followers after themselves. Paul asserted that such behaviour held no benefit because it is God who judges and rewards according to his own labour. Paul and Apollo were fellow workers who were accountable to God tasked to harvest God’s field and to build God’s building. And the building is erected on none other than the foundation of Jesus Christ. Since, the foundation is Christ, the building must be constructed according to God’s divine design, which is His wisdom.

Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident

Therefore, Paul warned believers to be careful as to how they build on this foundation of Christ. The building materials mentioned are in the order from the most valuable, gold, to the least, straw. The value of these material corresponds to the kind of wisdom that ministers or believers employ to construct their building. Precious materials corresponds to divine wisdom and the common materials corresponds to worldly wisdom.

The quality of the material that were used for construction will be revealed through fire at the appointed time. Buildings that were built with precious materials will endure and those that were built with common materials will consequently be destroyed. The fire here depicts economic turmoils and other elements that threatens the wellbeing of the ministry, career or business. The verdict of destruction is set for the ministries, businesses and careers that were wrought out of worldly wisdom. Paul wanted the work of believers to stand the test of time and to receive an eternal reward. In the same breath, he let out a warning that those who built with worldly wisdom would subject themselves to eternal danger.

For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God.

Paul asserted that those who think that they were wise must think again. The ”wise” employs worldly wisdom to exalt themselves above others and even above God. They use their human abilities to dominate others. Worldly wisdom says, “I am smarter, stronger, faster and better than everyone.” The wisdom of this world sought to achieve self-fulfilment at the expense of others. Those that build their careers and ministry using worldly wisdom will have their life’s work destroyed in a moment. However, divine wisdom is not self-seeking… it seeks to make the world a better and a more godly place. Such will see their life’s work endure and leave a legacy, the end of which is a glorious reception in heaven.

Truth

Seek to align yourself with God, not with men

The Corinthian believers seek to align themselves with known leaders, namely Paul and Apollos. And that breeds all kinds of strife and divisions. But when people align themselves with God and with the truth, there will be peace and unity of vision. When one align himself with a certain leader, he depends on that leader for protection and provision. But when one aligns himself with God, he depends on God for all things. No doubt, God uses leaders as channels of divine wisdom, authority and provision.

However, some leaders require their employees to be “loyal” to them, which translates into wholehearted support for their courses even when their agendas are questionable. Such followers yield unquestioningly to their leader’s wishes in exchange for security under his reign. Towards such a leader, one should not align himself. But even with Paul and Apollos, who despite being honourable men, asserted that all should be aligned unequivocally with God.

Nevertheless, leaders who align themselves with God, who give their lives to serve the people must be honoured as men and women of God. For they serve as models of how believers ought to conduct their lives.

Seek divine wisdom, not power

The Corinthian believers were fleshly, and practitioners of worldly wisdom. Worldly wisdom seeks to acquire power without divine wisdom. The crafty uses fear and greed to manipulate and to dominate. Those who build their houses by employing earthly wisdom, manipulation and threats are described by Paul as foolish. For there will come a time when their businesses and establishments crumble like a house of cards.

However, those who seek to do all things according to divine wisdom has no fear of sudden catastrophe. For God grants them authority over the angels who guards them from all evil. The psalmist says,

9 For you have made the Lord, my refuge,
Even the Most High, your dwelling place.
10 No evil will befall you,
Nor will any plague come near your tent.
11 For He will give His angels charge concerning you,
To guard you in all your ways. Psalm 91:9-11

Divine wisdom grants all who seek her divine power to do God’s will. Daniel, the prophet of Israel and chief advisor in the Babylonian courts, served under four kings (Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Darius, and Cyrus) without having to seek power. For power was given to him by virtue of his wisdom (see Daniel 5:12). Divine power has its foundations in divine wisdom; it does not stand by itself. The psalmist celebrates the king’s majestic victories because he walks in the cause of truth and righteousness,

3 Gird Your sword on Your thigh, O Mighty One,
In Your splendor and Your majesty!
4 And in Your majesty ride on victoriously,
For the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness;
Let Your right hand teach You awesome things. Psalm 45:3-4

The words that carry connotations of power are: sword, O Mighty One, victoriously and Your right hand. The words that relate with wisdom are: cause of truth, meekness, righteousness, and teach. In the above verses, we see power as having girded itself in divine wisdom.

Always involve others in your endeavours and share the rewards

Paul says, ”Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor.” Here, Paul asserts that God alone is the rewarder of man’s work. And no man can obtain a reward that does not come from God. James says, ”Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…” James 1:17. Because God is just and does not overlook our efforts, we can rest be assured that He will reward the deserving in good time. Therefore, we are at liberty to share the fruits of our labours without feeling jealous. James said,

Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behaviour his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. James 3:13-16

James brands jealousy and selfish ambition as diametrically opposed to divine wisdom. The fruit of divine wisdom is the propensity to rejoice without feeling jealous when good things happen to other people. Selfish ambition secretly hopes for misfortune to befall another so that he may become preeminent. Such arrogance is evidence of his imminent fall. But divine wisdom seeks to bring out the best of another and exalt them to a rightful place. Because people experience growth, they attribute their fortunes to wise leadership to whom they offer their loyalty out of gratitude.

Make peace the foundation of your endeavours

The unmistakable mark of divine wisdom is righteousness which denotes divine approval and favour. James said,

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. James 3:17-18

Righteousness is the fruit that comes from the seed of peace. And peace comprises purity, sound reasoning, mercy, steadfastness and sincerity. Peace is the state of relationships founded on divine wisdom. The opposite of peace is disorder and every evil thing which builds itself on earthly, natural and demonic kind of wisdom.

Therefore, if we want God’s approval and favour in our family, community and company, we must sow the seed of peace… to practice purity of heart, gentleness, sound reasoning, mercy and steadfastness and sincerity.

Application

Are you accustomed to pleasing your leaders in order to ingratiate yourself to them? Discerning leaders are not impressed by such tactics. But those who can stand by their virtues, wisdom and abilities are given due credit.

Are you overly concerned about acquiring power and leverage? And you would scheme, and politick in order to enter into the boss’s good books? Leaders delegate authority to those who are wise and who possess insights to solve difficult problems. Therefore, power is not the goal, but wisdom is.

Are you secure in yourself, having no fear that others may overtake you? As God has called you to this role, He will surely equip you with the ability to excel in your job. Hence, there is no fear when you place your trust in God. And we are at liberty to bring out the best in others without the fear of being sidelined.

Are you accustomed to speaking ill of another without being aware of it? You may be subconsciously pitting one against another so that you may be seen as good. While others are busy battling it out, you are free to carry out your schemes without being noticed. This subconscious behaviour is fleshly, natural and demonic. Stop your gossiping before calamity comes upon you. But rather speak the truth for the purpose of building trust and unity.

Dear Lord, I desire divine wisdom, peace and righteousness to reign in my family, church and company. I cut myself off from every instinct and thought that is fleshly, natural and demonic. Cause me to be a living testimony of divine wisdom. And use me to establish your kingdom’s culture in my family, church and company. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.

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Genesis 43:1-15 Calamities serve up occasions for the righteous to arise and shine.

1 Now the famine was severe in the land. 2 So it came about when they had finished eating the grain which they had brought from Egypt, that their father said to them, “Go back, buy us a little food.” 3 Judah spoke to him, however, saying, “The man solemnly warned us, ‘You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you.’ 4 If you send our brother with us, we will go down and buy you food. 5 But if you do not send him, we will not go down; for the man said to us, ‘You will not see my face unless your brother is with you.’” 6 Then Israel said, “Why did you treat me so badly by telling the man whether you still had another brother?” 7 But they said, “The man questioned particularly about us and our relatives, saying, ‘Is your father still alive? Have you another brother?’ So we answered his questions. Could we possibly know that he would say, ‘Bring your brother down’?” 8 Judah said to his father Israel, “Send the lad with me and we will arise and go, that we may live and not die, we as well as you and our little ones. 9 I myself will be surety for him; you may hold me responsible for him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame before you forever. 10 For if we had not delayed, surely by now we could have returned twice.”

11 Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be so, then do this: take some of the best products of the land in your bags, and carry down to the man as a present, a little balm and a little honey, aromatic gum and myrrh, pistachio nuts and almonds. 12 Take double the money in your hand, and take back in your hand the money that was returned in the mouth of your sacks; perhaps it was a mistake. 13 Take your brother also, and arise, return to the man; 14 and may God Almighty grant you compassion in the sight of the man, so that he will release to you your other brother and Benjamin. And as for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.” 15 So the men took this present, and they took double the money in their hand, and Benjamin; then they arose and went down to Egypt and stood before Joseph.

Background

As the family negotiates to return to Egypt, Israel’s indecisiveness jeopardises the lives of all three generations. It is possible that Israel has maintained his suspicion concerning his sons since Joseph’s disappearance. Here, Judah rises to the occasion and convinces Israel to release Benjamin by putting his own life on the line. Judah’s selfless and bold act saves not only Simeon but the entire family from starvation. Today’s devotion teaches us not to shrink back from life’s challenges. Calamities serve up occasions for the righteous to arise and shine.

Observation

“Go back, buy us a little food.”

Israel has been holding off the decision to send his sons back to Egypt. For he was still adamant about subjecting Benjamin to any kind of risk. Israel was still hoping against hope that the brothers would proceed to Egypt without Benjamin. However, Judah was aware of Israel’s train of thought and reminded him that there was no seeing the man unless Benjamin came along. Israel retorted unreasoningly accusing Judah of revealing to the man that he had another brother. However, Judah warned Israel of the serious consequences should the trip be further delayed. It is evident that Israel’s intransigence had become an imminent threat to the entire household.

I myself will be surety for him; you may hold me responsible for him.

Israel’s indecisiveness forced Judah to assume leadership to save the family from death by starvation. In volunteering to become surety for Benjamin, Judah surrendered his life and his family’s fortune to Jacob who will be at liberty to mete out whatever punishment he deems fit to Judah’s household should he violate the agreement. At the same breath, he chided Israel directly and firmly for his indecisiveness: For if we had not delayed, surely by now we could have returned twice. Here, Judah has taken upon himself to secure a measure of confidence from Israel.

Take your brother also, and arise, return to the man

Judah’s guarantee sufficed in convincing Israel to let Benjamin go. Given the circumstances, there are no real alternatives apart from presenting Benjamin before the man. But it is possible that Israel had his suspicions all along concerning Joseph’s disappearance and wanted one of the brothers to insure Benjamin’s wellbeing. Judah’s guarantee changed Israel’s mind concerning his sons’ intentions; this he subtly puts, ”If it must be so, then do this … perhaps it was a mistake” both as a cover and a face-saver for his dotardly behaviour. Israel’s change in attitude defies logic as he instructed gifts to be brought along to appease the man. Nevertheless, he appeared resigned to fate: if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.

Truth

Calamities serve up occasions for the righteous to arise and shine.

While Reuben puts his sons’ lives on the line, Judah puts his own life as surety and later he will offer himself as a slave in exchange for Benjamin. It is shamefully obvious that Reuben was seizing the opportunity to be the man of the hour when he subjected his sons to the capital punishment for added effect. However, Israel’s response was blatant, ”My son shall not go down with you…” On one hand, Reuben did not have a good standing with his father, on the other, his offer was absurd to say the least.

Judah rose swiftly to the occasion and secured Israel’s trust because he spoke sensibly, coherently and soberly. Indeed, he showed that he had the entire family’s wellbeing in mind. While Reuben harped on Benjamin, Judah was concerned about the food they could have bought if only Israel had not been so indecisive: For if we had not delayed, surely by now we could have returned twice. Without Judah’s wise and selfless intervention, the famine and Joseph’s placement in Egypt would have come to nothing.

A man’s true nature is revealed by his instincts in the face of calamity. Some people take a back seat while the rest scramble for a solution, and some look for opportunities to exalt themselves. But there are a few good men who will go for broke to save the whole community. Calamities also test one’s wisdom and resourcefulness in coming up with workable solutions.

Therefore, let us not shrink back from the challenges that are presented for us. For they are stepping stones to something much greater. Persist in maintaining a group mentality, to always have the group’s interest at heart. And God will raise you up to bring salvation to many. Judah, from this point on became a leader to his brothers and his tribe went on to become preeminent among the sons of Israel. Daniel was appointed as prophet to both Babylon and to the Jews in exile. He stood in the gap at a critical time and kept the Jews focused on the coming Messiah. He said,

Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. Daniel 12:3

Likewise, God has appointed you at a critical time to stand in the gap for your family, community and company.

Application

Challenges and calamities in different intensities arise at different points of our life and in different settings. Engage them and do not shrink back. The below are common objections to people rising up in the face of challenges:

Are you accustomed to sitting back and letting others fill the roles? Be laid back no more for God has appointed you to a role for such a time like this.

Are you plagued by a dim view of yourself thinking that others can do a better job? Do not be concerned if others can do a better job. Once you get your mind, heart and body engaged, confidence will return. God instructed Joshua, ”Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

Do you have a tendency to go blank when calamity strikes? Be engaged in the process of working out a solution and the Holy Spirit will in due time provide divine wisdom. Jesus encouraged His disciples, ”When they arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit.” Mark 13:11

Are you accustomed to thinking: What’s in it for me? Or What do I get out of it? When we put the interest of the whole above our personal interest, we will grow to become more like Jesus. This, in itself is our glory and reward.

Dear Lord, I desire to embrace the role that you have called me to. Cause me to rise up to meet the challenges so that I may succeed when the day of calamity arrives. Posture my heart towards considering the whole even at the expense of myself. Mould me in the ways of wisdom and imbue my heart with boldness and courage. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.

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Genesis 42:26-38 God appoints calamities for seasons of self-reflection and reconciliation

26 So they loaded their donkeys with their grain and departed from there. 27 As one of them opened his sack to give his donkey fodder at the lodging place, he saw his money; and behold, it was in the mouth of his sack. 28 Then he said to his brothers, “My money has been returned, and behold, it is even in my sack.” And their hearts sank, and they turned trembling to one another, saying, “What is this that God has done to us?”

29 When they came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan, they told him all that had happened to them, saying, 30 “The man, the lord of the land, spoke harshly with us, and took us for spies of the country. 31 But we said to him, ‘We are honest men; we are not spies. 32 We are twelve brothers, sons of our father; one is no longer alive, and the youngest is with our father today in the land of Canaan.’ 33 The man, the lord of the land, said to us, ‘By this I will know that you are honest men: leave one of your brothers with me and take grain for the famine of your households, and go. 34 But bring your youngest brother to me that I may know that you are not spies, but honest men. I will give your brother to you, and you may trade in the land.’”

35 Now it came about as they were emptying their sacks, that behold, every man’s bundle of money was in his sack; and when they and their father saw their bundles of money, they were dismayed. 36 Their father Jacob said to them, “You have bereaved me of my children: Joseph is no more, and Simeon is no more, and you would take Benjamin; all these things are against me.” 37 Then Reuben spoke to his father, saying, “You may put my two sons to death if I do not bring him back to you; put him in my care, and I will return him to you.” 38 But Jacob said, “My son shall not go down with you; for his brother is dead, and he alone is left. If harm should befall him on the journey you are taking, then you will bring my gray hair down to Sheol in sorrow.”

Background

The threat of death, and the agony of delivering bad news to their aging and despondent father set the brothers on edge. Calamities exacerbate self-reflection and promote penitence. Calamities also work in fostering forbearance and unity in the community. Before God can use Jacob’s family for a holy legacy, they must first be sanctified and be reconciled to one another. Therefore, God appoints cycles of calamities for seasons of repentance and reconciliation. It is through seasons of calamities that people grow in purity and love to leave an enduring legacy.

Observation

“My money has been returned, and behold, it is even in my sack.”

Simeon remained incarcerated while the rest of Jacob’s sons made their way back home. When they were at a lodging place, one of them found grain money in his sack. However, it did not occur to them to check the rest of their sacks until they reached home. Nevertheless, their heart sank as it appeared that they were pilfering and dishonest. Their thoughts raced as they trembled at what mess they have gotten themselves into. Here, the brothers came to a heartfelt acknowledgment that divine retribution has alas come upon them: “What is this that God has done to us?” Their conscience being aroused, they were forced to reckon with the misdeeds of their past.

Now it came about as they were emptying their sacks, that behold, every man’s bundle of money was in his sack.

The brothers banded together as one man to convince their father against the odds that all will be well. They told Jacob everything except the part that some money was found in one of the brother’s sack. Up to this point, Jacob was probably not overly worried. But when the rest of the money came to light as they were emptying their sacks, they were shell shocked. No one dared imagine what consequences await when they return. The discounted account of their trip to Egypt that was meant to allay Jacob’s fears had left him more despondent than ever. Jacob’s outburst clarified the situation as it stood. For Jacob, serving up Benjamin in exchange for Simeon presented unacceptable risks. As it seemed, Jacob was prepared to let Simeon go than to allow anyone to return to Egypt.

Reuben’s proposal was ludicrous as it was poorly thought out for how would killing Jacob’s grandsons alleviate the situation? That said, Jacob’s remarks concerning Benjamin albeit derogatory to the rest showed the depth of the brother’s forbearance and maturity. Here, despite their father’s incessant favouritism, the brothers were seen coming together in unity, each contributing their level best towards a workable solution.

Truth

God appoints calamities for seasons of self-reflection and reconciliation

When food was close to running out, instead of working together towards a common course, the brothers were staring at one another (see Genesis 42:1). They also harboured a guilty conscience refusing to come to terms with their hidden past. Such was the state of the holy family, fragmented and dysfunctional. For they were each estranged from God and from one another.

It took a famine and Joseph’s harsh treatment to heal the fractured family and cause them to reflect upon their past misdeeds. Calamity has an uncanny effect in inducing self-reflection towards repentance. It heals the fractures of distrust and dissension reconciling the family to God.

God appoints calamities for seasons of self-reflection. When we are faced with an inextricable situation, it is time for self-reflection as individuals and as a community. Calamity is a form of divine discipline that forces us to confront our darkest secrets. Until we come to realise our transgressions, and to acknowledge them in humility, there will be no reprieve. Indeed, the pain and discomfort of calamities push us towards holiness resulting in a more glorious existence. Therefore, in times of calamity, we must not resort to complaining but understand what God is telling us. However, what hinders self-reflection is pride and denial. Pride refuses to acknowledge the severity of one’s own sin while trivialising it with all kinds of excuses. On the other hand, those in denial suppose they are already perfected in Christ and hence, need no repentance.

God appoints calamities for seasons of reconciliation. Calamity forces us to depend on one another for solace and security. It is here that conflicts of interest give way to interdependency, and personal wellbeing to wellbeing of the whole. Calamity works effectively in breaking fixation on self and by uniting all towards the common good. Calamity causes people to reexamine the price of enmity and unforgiveness against the greater benefit of reconciliation. It also helps people look past their differences to appreciate the beauty and strength of diversity.

That said, calamity can make or break a family or community. Some out of selfish reasons may choose to leave preferring to venture out alone. To their credit, Jacob’s sons remained united throughout the ordeal. Where once they were staring at one another, they now give themselves sacrificially towards a common good. Truly, the holy family has emerged more united and sanctified from the crucible of famine and death.

Application

Are you experiencing a kind of calamity in your family or community? Sicknesses, and financial troubles are but seasons for repentance and reconciliation. Take time to reflect on the following:

a. Have I been haughty and blind to my own weaknesses?

b. Am I open to feedback and criticisms?

c. Do I take time to reflect on myself in the light of the word and feedback from others?

c. Am I easily taken in by popular prejudices against some people?

d. Am I accustomed to deflecting blame from myself when something goes wrong?

e. Am I more inclined to seeing people’s weaknesses or strengths?

f. Am I inclined to making people feel welcomed regardless of their personality, background, age or race?

g. As love is always believing… Do I readily forgive believing that change comes from making mistakes and actively learning from them?

Dear Lord, I desire to be more open to your instructions and to the feedback of others so that I may grow. I am thankful that even in my weaknesses, I am considered a beloved son of your family. In whatever circumstances, use me to speak truth and grace, and to unite the community towards a brighter future. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.

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The Truth will set you free – Hebrews 11:8-12

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The Truth Will Set You Free – Ps Gabriel Chan

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Genesis 42:1-25 The fear of God helps us lay aside our personal grievances to embrace the kingdom’s call

Genesis 42:1-25 The fear of God helps us lay aside our personal grievances to embrace the kingdom’s call

Now Jacob saw that there was grain in Egypt, and Jacob said to his sons, “Why are you staring at one another?” 2 He said, “Behold, I have heard that there is grain in Egypt; go down there and buy some for us from that place, so that we may live and not die.” 3 Then ten brothers of Joseph went down to buy grain from Egypt. 4 But Jacob did not send Joseph’s brother Benjamin with his brothers, for he said, “I am afraid that harm may befall him.” 5 So the sons of Israel came to buy grain among those who were coming, for the famine was in the land of Canaan also.

6 Now Joseph was the ruler over the land; he was the one who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed down to him with their faces to the ground. 7 When Joseph saw his brothers he recognized them, but he disguised himself to them and spoke to them harshly. And he said to them, “Where have you come from?” And they said, “From the land of Canaan, to buy food.”

8 But Joseph had recognized his brothers, although they did not recognize him. 9 Joseph remembered the dreams which he had about them, and said to them, “You are spies; you have come to look at the undefended parts of our land.” 10 Then they said to him, “No, my lord, but your servants have come to buy food. 11 We are all sons of one man; we are honest men, your servants are not spies.” 12 Yet he said to them, “No, but you have come to look at the undefended parts of our land!” 13 But they said, “Your servants are twelve brothers in all, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan; and behold, the youngest is with our father today, and one is no longer alive.” 14 Joseph said to them, “It is as I said to you, you are spies; 15 by this you will be tested: by the life of Pharaoh, you shall not go from this place unless your youngest brother comes here! 16 Send one of you that he may get your brother, while you remain confined, that your words may be tested, whether there is truth in you. But if not, by the life of Pharaoh, surely you are spies.” 17 So he put them all together in prison for three days.

Now Joseph said to them on the third day, “Do this and live, for I fear God: 19 if you are honest men, let one of your brothers be confined in your prison; but as for the rest of you, go, carry grain for the famine of your households, 20 and bring your youngest brother to me, so your words may be verified, and you will not die.” And they did so. 21 Then they said to one another, “Truly we are guilty concerning our brother, because we saw the distress of his soul when he pleaded with us, yet we would not listen; therefore this distress has come upon us.” 22 Reuben answered them, saying, “Did I not tell you, ‘Do not sin against the boy’; and you would not listen? Now comes the reckoning for his blood.” 23 They did not know, however, that Joseph understood, for there was an interpreter between them. 24 He turned away from them and wept. But when he returned to them and spoke to them, he took Simeon from them and bound him before their eyes. 25 Then Joseph gave orders to fill their bags with grain and to restore every man’s money in his sack, and to give them provisions for the journey. And thus it was done for them.

Background

God uses the famine to initiate the process of reconciliation for the holy family. Salvation in God’s kingdom goes beyond physical sustenance to the restoration of relationships. Here, God is the divine orchestrator while Joseph works with God’s providence to unite the brothers towards a fitting end. Joseph, in laying aside his personal grievances has become an instrument of salvation to Israel and to the world. Today’s devotion teaches us that reverence for God helps us lay aside our personal grievances to embrace the eternal call of the kingdom.

Observation

Now Jacob saw that there was grain in Egypt, and Jacob said to his sons, “Why are you staring at one another?”

The famine sent the inhabitants of all Egypt and Canaan scrambling for food. And because known to all the world was the abundance of grain in Egypt, Jacob dispatched his sons to purchase grain. Since Joseph was long gone, Benjamin being his full brother had taken his place in his father’s affections. Jacob’s decision not to send Benjamin arose from his fear of Joseph’s fate befalling him. As Benjamin is now the only surviving son of his beloved Rachel, under all circumstances he must be protected; Leah and her sons don’t matter as much. The rest of the brothers went out in full force to maximise the payload of grain on their return trip.

When Joseph saw his brothers he recognised them, but he disguised himself to them and spoke to them harshly.

For security reasons, it was customary for all foreign buyers of grain to be brought before Joseph. As the brothers bowed down to him, he recognised them but was quick to disguise himself. After being separated for 22 years, Joseph was anxious to understand the circumstances surrounding his family. By ostensibly accusing them of espionage and interrogating them harshly, Joseph put them under duress to respond to his questions truthfully.

Joseph might have forgotten his afflictions, but he remembered the dreams that showed 11 of his brothers bowing down to him. Thus, Joseph strategised and orchestrated a series of events in accordance to that dream so that God’s purposes might be fulfilled. Just as he strategised and brought salvation to Egypt based on Pharaoh’s dreams, now he is strategising to bring salvation to his family based on his dreams.

Joseph maintained his charge against the brothers’ repeated denials. Unknown to the brothers, Joseph was scheming to assemble all of Jacob’s sons in Egypt as shown in the dream. Joseph’s initial plan was to incarcerate all of them while leaving one to return home to fetch Benjamin. However, the plan was modified to have one brother remain incarcerated while allowing the rest to return home with the much needed grain.

Bring your youngest brother to me, so your words may be verified, and you will not die.

Joseph assured them that by bringing Benjamin, they would be exonerated and freed to trade in the land. The brothers, having accepted the inevitability of bringing Benjamin, proceeded to select from amongst themselves one who would remain behind.

Here, the brothers began to speak freely unaware that Joseph actually understood every word they said. Apparently, what weighed heavily on them was the prospect of seeing their father agonise over yet another of his son disappearing. And at the same time alluding to the inevitability of having Benjamin make the trip to Egypt, something that Jacob was unwilling to do from the beginning. In the conversation that ensued, the brothers attributed their current predicament as a fitting retribution to a moral misdeed committed against Joseph years ago. They have alas come to recognise God’s justice befalling them. Their confrontation with death and having to answer to a grieving father appeared to have pushed them to the threshold of penitence. Amidst the exchanges, the words of regret and remorse, Joseph was moved to tears. He turned away and wept but returned to select Simeon whom he considered as one most culpable for the misdeed. Simeon was bound in their presence to impress upon them the severity of the situation should they not return with Benjamin.

Joseph’s decision to return the grain money was a sign of trust returning and that reconciliation was near.

Truth

The fear of God helps us lay aside our personal grievances to embrace the kingdom’s call

Joseph never demanded restitution from his brothers but brought them to repentance. Here, the salvation of Israel goes beyond physical sustenance to the healing of relationships through repentance and reconciliation. God’s kingdom plan for Israel is both physical and spiritual. Many families today appear well to do on the outside but are constantly at odds with one another. Regrettably, peace and trust are rare commodities and out of reach for many. God has called Joseph not only to save Israel from starvation, but to save them from their immoral deeds.

Joseph’s call is considered by many a tall order. Firstly, he is the victim facing his perpetrators and he possesses every right to get even with them. Secondly, he holds the position of power with none on earth to account to for his actions. However, for all his seeming harshness, Joseph never acted out of vengeance. Joseph’s weeping betrayed his steely composure, for he desired more than anything… reconciliation with his brothers. But only if they repent of their misdeeds.

How did Joseph managed to lay aside his personal grievances to embrace the kingdom’s call for reconciliation? Joseph said to the brothers on the third day of their imprisonment, ”Do this and live, for I fear God…” It is Joseph’s fear of God that helped kept his head. His dream is proof that God has personally seen to his sale into Egypt so that he may become deliverer of Israel and the world.

People often make the mistake of focusing on their personal grievances and missed out on their divine call. Many are blinded by hatred and notions of sweet revenge, so much so it robs them of whatever sanity they have left. Joseph has reminded us to look pass our little grievances and injustices, for God’s plans for the kingdom are so much bigger than the petty affairs of men.

Application

Are you embroiled in a bitter conflict and seeking restitution for past grievances? Or are you particularly sensitive to people’s remarks? Or how people may treat you unfairly? Paul said,

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you… Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. Colossians 3:13,15

God’s kingdom culture is one of peace and forbearance. Hence, we ought to let our grievances rest in forgiveness even as the Lord has forgiven us. In so doing, we release ourselves from bondage to pursue our eternal calling in the kingdom’s work. Adopt a local as well as an overseas ministry that endeavour to help those who are marginalised. By focusing your time and resources on such endeavours, you will find it easier to lay aside your grievances and injustices.

Dear Lord, I will not do anything that jeopardises your kingdom’s work. Because I fear you, and because you have forgiven my sins, I will freely release those who has harmed me. Use me to be a peacemaker to bring reconciliation, peace and salvation to the world. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.

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