Living By Faith

And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that . . . in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed (Genesis 12:2-3).

The promise, that through Abraham all nations of the earth would be blessed, did not apply to all of Abraham’s descendants. It left out Ishmael and his six step-brothers. It would later leave out Esau. Jacob, Abraham’s grandson, had twelve sons, but the means of blessing the world would come through only one of them – Judah.

Reuben’s lifestyle issues excluded him from the blessing. Simeon and Levi were guilty of acts of violence and that excluded them (see Genesis 49). And that, of course, left Judah – through whom Jesus came.

We could leave it at that, but we would overlook another contender: Joseph. Why not make Joseph the tribe of the blessing? After all, Joseph himself was a man of faith and absolute devotion to God. His descendants (through his sons Manasseh and Ephraim) would constitute the largest tribe in Israel – so prominent that “Ephraim” would become the other name for ten of Israel’s tribes. Why wouldn’t the blessing come through Joseph and Ephraim? In fact, according to 1 Chronicles 5:1-2, this was a distinct possibility.

Psalm 78 provides an answer. “they [Ephraim] did not believe in God and did not trust his saving power . . . despite his wonders, they did not believe” (vss. 22,32). And so, God “rejected” the tribe of Joseph (or the rest of Israel) in favor of Judah (vss. 67-68).

The thrust of Psalm 78 is to emphasize the importance of a right response to God’s blessings (of which all Israel were recipients), and therein is the lesson for us. The proper response to God’s grace is to trust His way, seek His guidance and follow it, believing that God’s way is the best way, and the only way into His presence.

It’s called “living by faith.”

Be An Encourager!

We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is . . . serving, then serve; . . . 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement . . .(Romans 12:6-8).

Charles Swindoll tells the story of a mother who took her young son to hear a famous pianist. She hoped it might spur the boy to take an interest in music.

Before the concert started, the mother, busy chatting with friends, became oblivious to the fact her son had left his seat. Drawn to the stage, the boy made his way down to inspect the gleaming black Steinway. He ran his fingers lightly over the shiny white keys. No one noticed until he sat down and began to play (you guessed it) “chopsticks.”

The mother was horrified, the crowd became loudly indignant. But the pianist, hearing the boy and the noise of the audience quickly surmised what had happened and, grabbing his coat, ran on stage to the child. Reaching around the boy he began to improvise a tune to accompany “chopsticks,” all the while whispering in the child’s ear: “Don’t stop. Keep on going. You’re doing fine. Don’t ever give up.”

How often have you failed to achieve something wonderful because you fell under the weight of insurmountable criticism? Worse, how often have you been the deciding factor in someone else’s failure because you were a griper or complainer rather than an encourager?

The Bible teaches that the ability to encourage is a gift from God. Indeed, Luke says it is a work of God Himself (Acts 9:31 NIV). Let’s join in the work of God and be encouragers! And when we need it ourselves, let us look to the Lord from whom all blessings flow!