Do you ever feel that certain emotions are “off limits” when it comes to God? That you can’t express anger to God? That you can’t express fear or confusion to God?
It seems, at times, people have a false sense of spirituality like “Oh, I could never say those things to God.” The reality is that God is the one person who is capable of handling any emotional expression that we bring to Him.
The ‘Psalms of Lament’ point out that we can express our fear to God, we can express our anger to God and we can express our doubt to God. In fact, God is the one person we can come to no matter what condition we find our soul and cry out to Him.
Indeed, God is the only person we can come to who can truly heal our hurting soul.
In Psalm 22 the psalmist cries out in the pain of abandonment and yet he ends with a statement of praise and commitment.
The reality is that when we don’t bring our hurts and doubts to God, we also rarely end up with true praise and commitment. When we don’t deal with our hurt and resentment, we can begin to build up a little bit of resentment because we think that God is holding out on us a little bit.
There are many things that come to mind as we think of the life of Joseph: how he persevered in the midst of bad times and was faithful to God in spite of circumstances; how he kept himself morally pure; how God worked through him and helped save both the Egyptians and his own family; how he was this person with some rather incredible gifts in accurately interpreting dreams. There is also the growth curve from being an seemingly arrogant teenager to a mature, humble, caring and competent adult.
There are many things we can learn and many things that stand out. However, none of those things mentioned are highlighted by God.
Highlighted in Hebrews 11 are Joseph’s burial instructions (11:22).
Really? Joseph is part of the hall of faith because of burial instructions? Actually, yes!
What Joseph’s burial instructions revealed is that he believed God would keep His promises. So, even though Joseph died in Egypt, he believed God would bring the people back to the promised land.
When we are a people who cling to the promises of God and live our lives in light of eternity, God is not ashamed to be called our God (Hebrews 11:13-16).
Jesus died on the cross and he was buried. Just the fact that he was buried is somewhat miraculous—normally criminals were just tossed in the trash heaps and were eaten by the dogs (I know, it doesn’t fit our sense of dignity but it was a 1stcentury reality). That Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate to ask for the body is also somewhat miraculous—normally you didn’t identify too closely with a person who was just crucified.
Of course, the true miracle is that he rose from the grave. Jesus demonstrated the veracity of who he is by his resurrection, which he had previously predicted. The resurrection assures us we can have a forgiveness of our sins, and it assures us that we too will one day be transformed to have glorious bodies (1 Cor. 15).
In celebrating the resurrection we are celebrating true life which will last for all of eternity.
Resources on the historical cultural background of the New Testament tell us that the Passover lambs were raised in fields near Bethlehem. (This brings an interesting thought on the shepherds who were watching their fields the night Jesus was born—there seems to be a good chance that they were watching over Passover lambs.)
The custom of these shepherds was on the first day of the week, before Passover, they bring the lambs into Jerusalem to be sold for Passover. The Jews would have been used to the sight of hundreds of lambs being led into Jerusalem for the Passover. Jesus comes into Jerusalem on the same day, entering to offer himself as the lamb of God.
Jesus is the true lamb of God. He is the sacrifice appointed by God for our sins. Hebrews 10:10 tells us: We have been made holy by God’s will through the offering of Jesus Christ’s body once for all.
John tells us: This is love: it is not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son as the sacrifice that deals with our sins. (1 John 4:10).
May we rejoice as we reflect on the fact that that Jesus entered Jerusalem to be the sacrifice for our sins.
May we look forward to the day when Jesus returns on a white horse full of power and glory.
In Genesis 42-45 we read the story of Joseph’s brothers going to Egypt to buy food and culminating with Joseph revealing himself to his brothers.
There are several things that we can learn from this story. One is God’s ability to bring about what he had foretold to Joseph over 20 years earlier. Just because it had been over 20 years since Joseph had the dreams didn’t mean that God had forgotten about the plans he had for Joseph. Should it surprise us that God’s timetable and our timetable are not always the same.
Another thing we can learn is about the transformation that happened in the life of Joseph. Joseph seems like a cocky arrogant teenager in the beginning but is a humble God honoring young man in the years to come. Likewise we see the importance of having God’s favor on us. In each of the down circumstances (slavery, prison), God was with him. God was also with Joseph as he interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams and wisely counseled Pharaoh on what to do in light of the dreams.
Indeed there are many takeaways from this story.
However, one stands out to me is that in the midst of all his negative and positive circumstances, Joseph can see the hand of God at work. Joseph’s ability to see this is a significant part of being able to forgive his brothers. In Genesis 45:5-8, Joseph attributes his being in Egypt to the hand of God and a part of God’s divine sovereign plan. Joseph understands that God used the wicked motives of his brothers to fulfill the dreams and to bring about the salvation of the family, indeed the blessing of the surrounding world through Joseph’s God given insight, wisdom and planning.
At times, devastating things happen to us in our lives. May we see the good hand of God at work in molding us for the plans he has for our lives. May we become better people and not bitter people in the midst of circumstances over which we have little control.
May we learn to forgive and trust God’s sovereignty.