Let There Be Peace

For years Joseph lived with the hurt of being rejected by his family. It took a long time to get over it, and though he named his son “forgotten” (Manasseh), because he had come to forget the hurt of his father’s house, the fact that he brings it up in naming his son indicates he never really forgot. He’d just gotten on with his life.

But deep in his heart, he was tired of the grudge-bearing, and when he learned that his brothers regretted their treatment of him, forgiveness poured out. You see how effusive it was in his statements to the family that come quickly and randomly:
* Don’t be stressed or angry with yourselves for selling me here
* This was God’s plan to save your lives
* Bring the family and live near me
* I will give you the best land in Egypt
* Leave your belongings behind – I’ll replace all your stuff with better stuff

All is forgiven. What Joseph wants is restoration and normalcy – the way things “ought” to be.

But while Joseph has been able to forgive, his suggestions will bring trouble and he knows it. How will his brothers explain that he is alive? Will they confess their conspiracy, or will they lie to Jacob? Might it not be easier just to “not return”? Might they entertain options along their way home? Might they blame one another for their predicament (they’d already done that)?

So as he bids them goodby, he says: “Don’t quarrel along the way.”

Yes, there are some confessions to be made, probably some “licks” to be taken, but “let it go,” everything is going to be ok.

Interestingly, the word for “quarrel” only occurs here in Genesis, but 41 more times in the Old Testament. It carries with it the notion of unrest, shaking (as in an earthquake), fear (again, as in an earthquake). What Joseph is calling for is peace.

Perhaps it is inevitable that discord disrupt peace occasionally, but God intends that in His family, there will be peace. When family members decide that will be their goal, the details become small matters to be overlooked, forgiven and forgotten. But that only works if peace is the goal. Far better to side with Joseph and let hurt and anger go rather than nourish it. Someone has to be the bigger person. Is that not, after all, the example of God?

[Note: essays on every chapter of the Bible may be accessed at www.amazinggraceinternational.com/blog.]

Out of the World and into Worship

[Note: essays on every chapter of the Bible may be accessed by going to www.amazinggraceinternational.com/blog. The on-going articles in this space are meant to supplement those and follow along with our daily Bible reading schedule, found at the calendar tab on this site.]

Noah comes out of the ark and the first thing he does is build an altar to God. Abraham builds an altar at Shechem, between Bethel and Ai. He builds another at Hebron and still another on Mt. Moriah. Had we been alive then, we could likely have traced Abraham’s travels just by the altars he builds. He “calls on the name of the Lord” and “worships” and from his example, his servants learn to pray and worship – as does his son.

All of this seemingly Abraham does on his own, without prompting from the Lord. He does it because God is great, and his greatness deserves recognition and honor. He does it because God is gracious, and his graciousness deserves gratitude and praise.

We should remember this. I read far far too often the comments of Christians who call us to “get out of our churches and into the world.”
No no no. A thousand times no. Don’t buy this shallow mindset.

We spend nearly every waking hour in the world. While we are there, let us be lights in the darkness, salt of the earth and the pillar and ground of truth. May the world come to see Christ through us. It’s what Jesus calls us to.

But let us also take time to step out of our world and into the Divine Presence through worship. It’s in worship we are reminded of our place. It is in worship we are reminded of the divine order (and it is why worship assembly often adheres to rules foreign to the world – reminding us of the way God made things). It is in worship we are reminded of God’s care for us, and in worship we openly and unreservedly remember, thank and praise God. Think not that all of life is worship. Abraham would not have agreed. While all of life should honor God, there comes a time to separate from life’s busyness and commune with the Lord. May our lives be tracked not just by the services we render, but by the worship we offer.

Angels in Job — Job 4

[Note: essays on every chapter of the Bible may be accessed by going to www.amazinggraceinternational.com/blog. The on-going articles in this space are meant to supplement those and follow along with our daily Bible reading schedule, found at the calendar tab on this site.]

To be such an old book, Job has a rather sophisticated sense of the heavenly. Angels “present” themselves before God, and evidently Satan too has access. These angels are also called the “sons of God” – though one should be careful about reading “angels” back into Genesis 6:2 – and comprise, at least partly, the council of the Lord.

Does God really have a council of advisers?

It’s easy sometimes to confuse what the Bible says with what the Bible teaches. There is an intimation that God does have a council (15:8), and this is seen also in the 24 elders who sit on thrones in God’s presence in Revelation 4.

But then again, why would God need a council? Is He not capable of making His own decisions? Might there be a wise one in that council who has thought of something God missed, or is privy to information God is not?

This is what I mean about the difference between what the Bible says and what it teaches. The depiction of God, surrounded by heavenly beings, is a legitimate one, but it also heightens the image of the greatness of God (the real point of the image). The angels may rejoice together at what God creates (Job 38:7), but make no mistake: it is God who creates, not angels. His superiority to the heavenly host is seen several times in Job: they “present” themselves before the Lord. God judges them (Job 4:18). Though they may be addressed in prayer, they have no power to answer (and therefore are unsuitable objects of prayer – 5:1). Though they may be able to influence and even attack human beings, God is able to overpower them and rescue mankind (perhaps the point of Job 5:15). They may act as God’s representatives to care for mankind (Job 33:23-25), but it is God who decides a man’s fate.

The point of all of this in Job is not to offer insight to the workings of heaven, but to acknowledge what may be in the minds of humanity about the spirit world and affirm, with crystal clarity, that no matter who or what these beings are – their purpose or power – God is supreme. To place one’s faith in anyone less than the Almighty Himself is to lean on a broken reed for a staff.

The Earliest Christ Promise — Genesis 3:15

There is an easily missed promise in Genesis 3. You will run right over it and never think about it again because it is never specifically mentioned again in scripture. But it is incredibly important.

The scene of course is the garden “after the fall.” God has gathered the man, the woman, and Satan. All stand guilty before Him: Satan for blaspheming God (‘He lies’ Satan said), Eve for wilful disobedience, and Adam for knowing complicity. Creation is ruined. All guilty parties will be punished. Satan will be forced to a humiliating position before God, and the brightest days of humanity (male and female) will always be overshadowed by hard work.

And that’s when the promise occurs. Satan will remain estranged from mankind – a perpetual enemy. But Eve’s offspring will eventually deliver to Satan a mortal blow.

Which offspring? It surely wouldn’t be a “normal” offspring, and not just any offspring.

Eve may have thought it was to be Cain. Her response at Cain’s birth (in Hebrew) is “I have gotten a man, even the Lord.” Surely such a man would be able to be the end of Satan – but Cain was not to be that man.

And there the text lay – at least until about 200 B.C. when the Old Testament was translated into Greek. The translators did a strange thing. The passage reads: “And I [God] will put enmity between you [Satan] and the woman, and between your seed and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” “Seed” is a neuter collective noun. The text ought to read “it [or they] will crush your head.” But it doesn’t. It very pointedly and ungrammatically reads, “this seed, HE (singular masculine) will crush your head.”

My point is this: here may be the earliest promise of the Messiah in the Bible. Someone is coming, someone who will undo the mess made by Satan. From even the ruined Garden, God had a plan of restoration.