Friday, January 23, 2015

Find Freedom in Forgiveness

If you are familiar with Jacob's son, Joseph, you will not be surprised to find him as the subject of how to find freedom in forgiveness.  Joseph was mistreated by his older brothers when he was a young man of 17.  The brothers' original plan was to kill Joseph but they sold him into slavery to some Midianite merchants for 20 shekels of silver.

Joseph became a servant in the household of Potiphar until Potiphar's wife falsely accused him .  He was then thrown into prison and was forgotten.  The Scripture says God was with Joseph and blessed him.  (We don't usually think someone is being blessed when they are in slavery or in prison!)

Pharaoh had some disturbing dreams that no one was able to interpret.  His cupbearer remembered that Joseph had interpreted his dream when he was in prison and it had turned out just as Joseph had said so  Pharaoh sent for Joseph.  Joseph assured Pharaoh he could not interpret dreams, but God could. God used Joseph to interpret Pharaoh's dreams and as a result, Joseph was placed in charge of all Egypt - just under Pharaoh.

When Joseph's family began suffering from the famine (which Joseph had foretold because of Pharaoh's dreams), they came to Egypt for food.  They thought Joseph was dead so they never dreamed he would be the one in charge of the food they so desperately needed.  After a time of testing his brothers to see if they had changed, he revealed his identity to them.  They were terrified! (Genesis 45:3)  They remembered what they had done to their brother but Joseph quickly assured them with these words: "I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt.  And now do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you." (Genesis 45:4-5)

How could Joseph say these words to his brothers after all the suffering he had been through?   

Our Sunday School class is studying the life of Joseph and I asked them Sunday to think about these questions: How can we forgive someone who has hurt us deeply?  How can we forgive someone who has not even admitted they have hurt us?  How can we forgive someone who has not even asked for forgiveness?  These all applied to Joseph - he had been hurt deeply, his brothers had not admitted to him they had hurt him and they had not asked for forgiveness.  He forgave them anyway because God was with him and it is the only way to experience freedom.  Joseph was able to accomplish his God-sized task because he had been set free from unforgiveness.  

In Genesis 50:19-21, Joseph reassured his brothers again of his forgiveness with these words: "Don't be afraid.  Am I in the place of God?  You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.  So then, don't be afraid.  I will provide for you and your children.  And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them."


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

God Still Honors Obedience

The obedience in the Christmas story amazes me.  I am in awe of Mary and Joseph's obedience.  When Mary was chosen to do a very difficult thing - bear a child as an unwed mother - she said, "I am the Lord's servant, may it be to me as you have said." (Luke 1:38)

When Joseph was told not to be afraid to take Mary home to be his wife (a woman who was pregnant and not by him!), he did exactly that.  Matthew 1:24 " . . . .he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife."

The shepherds' obedience is also amazing.  When they were told of Jesus' birth and where they could find the Christ-child, they left their charges (sheep), their life's work for a time, to go see this One who was to be the Savior of the world.  They didn't make excuses or tell the angel how busy they were, they simply hurried off to find this One.  After seeing Him, they spread the word concerning what they had been told about this child.

God honored Mary, Joseph and the shepherds' obedience and He still desires and honors obedience today.  Oh, to have the trust, belief and obedience of Mary and Joseph.  Oh, to be willing to leave what I am doing (my busyness) so I can truly see Christ as the shepherds did.

As we are at the beginning of a new year, may we strive to have the servant heart of Mary and the obedience we see in Mary, Joseph and the shepherds.