“Praise be to the LORD, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer.” Ruth 4:14
In an ancient form of Chinese drama, plays were often performed on a two-level stage. On the first level, the drama would unfold in the natural sequence of the script, while on the second level the last act of the play would be acted out simultaneously. This gave the audience a distinct advantage—they knew how the story would end. In fact, it was not uncommon for the audience to yell to the actors on level one, warning them that their attitudes or actions were threatening the good outcomes of the final act of the play.
Life is a lot like living on “level one.” When life on level one is in the dumper, it’s easy to forget that the unseen hand of God is already at work to bring the last act to His glory and our good.
It was like that for Ruth and Naomi. Their “level one” was not a pretty picture. After the unexpected death of her husband and two sons, Naomi was left with her two daughters-in-law as a marginalized immigrant in Moab. In an age when men were the sole providers for their families and sons were a badge of honor to a woman, this was no small problem. The level-one cry of this destitute widow is understandable. “The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me” (Ruth 1:21).
In Naomi’s excruciating pain, God was at work. Through Boaz’s noble response to Naomi’s destitute need for a kinsman-redeemer, God was in the process of designing a powerful picture of the rescuing work of Jesus to redeem our lives from hopelessness. It was also in God’s providence to place a Moabite woman in the line of Christ to prove that all, regardless of race or background, could be included in His saving grace (Matthew 1:5). How did He get a Moabitess to Bethlehem where she could marry into the line of Christ? He sent Naomi to Moab to bring one back! Without her knowing it, God was positioning Naomi to be greatly used of God.
So here’s the lesson. When level one is not a pretty picture, remember that God is the manager of all that plays out in our lives. We are not left to the winds of fate. I love the fact that He never wastes our sorrows and that His hidden hand is working to turn our sorrows into significance. Romans 8:28 assures us: “In all things God works for the good of those who love him.” So, chin up! The God who works on level two guarantees a good and glorious ending.
- Read Romans 8:28-29. According to verse 29, what is God’s purpose for my life? How does that affect my view of what is “good” for me?
- What challenges am I facing on level one right now? How does it help to know that God already knows what level two will bring?
- If my life were divided into acts like a play, what act would I be in right now? What act has been played out with an outcome that proved to be good for me?
. . . men always ought to pray and not lose heart —Luke 18:1
As an intercessor, be careful not to seek too much information from God regarding the situation you are praying about, because you may be overwhelmed. If you know too much, more than God has ordained for you to know, you can’t pray; the circumstances of the people become so overpowering that you are no longer able to get to the underlying truth.
Our work is to be in such close contact with God that we may have His mind about everything, but we shirk that responsibility by substituting doing for interceding. And yet intercession is the only thing that has no drawbacks, because it keeps our relationship completely open with God.
What we must avoid in intercession is praying for someone to be simply “patched up.” We must pray that person completely through into contact with the very life of God. Think of the number of people God has brought across our path, only to see us drop them! When we pray on the basis of redemption, God creates something He can create in no other way than through intercessory prayer.
By the time Jacob’s sons go down to Egypt because of the famine in Canaan, Joseph has been gone for 22 years. So the Sages find it strange that in the Scriptures, the ten brothers are referred to as “Joseph’s brothers.” They haven’t had anything to do with Joseph for over two decades and they certainly hadn’t acted much like brothers the last time they saw Joseph! Wouldn’t ‘Jacob’s sons’ have been a more appropriate term?
The Sages explain that they are called “Joseph’s brothers” in order to teach us that when they came down to Egypt, they were indeed behaving like family. They had long regretted their act of selling Joseph and were desperate to find him. But that leads to another question: Why would they even imagine that Joseph would still be alive? The life expectancy for slaves in Egypt wasn’t very long!
A story is told about a great rabbi in the 19th century who lived in a town where there was an atheist shoemaker. One evening, as the rabbi was walking home from the synagogue, his shoe broke. As providence would have it, he was right next to the atheist’s shoe repair shop. The rabbi gave his shoes over to the man and waited for his shoes to be ready. After much time had passed, the rabbi politely asked the shoemaker if there was any hope that his shoes would be ready that evening. The man replied, “As long as the candle is burning, there is hope that the work will be completed.”
The rabbi rejoiced, not because there was hope for his shoes, but because he had learned a valuable lesson from the atheist. He often quoted that shoemaker, because for him, the words had a deeper meaning: “As long as a person is breathing, he must not give up hope!”
Hope and faith have long been two pillars of Judaism. And that’s why Joseph’s brothers went down to Egypt full of hope. Even if there was the slightest chance that they would find their brother and make amends, they had to have faith. In the end, their hope was validated. But even if they hadn’t found Joseph, their hope would have still been appropriate. Every time we hope for the best, we affirm our faith in God Almighty, Who is all-powerful and all-loving.
What are you hoping for? Are the odds against you? Do you feel like giving up? Don’t! A person must have hope until his or her very last breath. And even then, there is hope. We have faith that anything is possible with God and trust that everything which happens is for the best.
|Oppose Sister Wives propaganda|
|The latest episode of “Sister Wives” included some of the most blatant propaganda yet – portraying polygamy as positive and good.
Sponsors include: Hershey; McDonalds’s; Campbell’s soup; Kraft; Arm & Hammer products; Lysol; Scotch tape; Nintendo; Sprint; Amazon; AFLAC; Xbox; Canon; Geico; Triaminic cough medicine; Xfinity (Comcast); local advertiser Meijer supermarkets; and several others.
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The latest episode was described by one entertainment website this way:
“On the next Sister Wives the dark side of polygamy is uncovered when the Brown teenagers volunteer for an organization that helps people escape from abusive polygamist families. The teens meet a fellow group of teens that have left their polygamist families due to abuse. They confront the Brown family about the serious issues they have with the lifestyle, and the Browns are quick to defend their way of life.”
You might say, “Hey, you described the episode as ‘blatant propaganda.’ That description doesn’t sound like propaganda to me – ‘uncovering the dark side’ of ‘abusive’ polygamists. It sounds as if the show is finally showing the evil of polygamy.”
I might have thought so, too – until I watched the episode. Notice the last line of the episode’s description – “the Browns are quick to defend their way of life.” That, in essence, was the real focus of the episode.
The Browns were quick to condemn abuse in these other polygamist families (such as the Warren Jeffs cult), but were even quicker to proclaim “polygamy’s not the problem.”
The show used teen daughter Madison – who in the past has emphatically said she would not be part of a plural marriage – to defend polygamy as she tearfully stated to the camera:
“They don’t understand there’s a good side to polygamy. I had more support in my life than a lot of kids I know because of polygamy. And I grew up in an extremely happy home and a good home because of polygamy, that I never would have known if my parents weren’t polygamists.”
The show goes on to try to convince not only viewers, but even the young adults who were helped to escape polygamy, that plural marriage ‘the way the Browns do it’ – is a good thing.
Throughout the episode Brown family members state:
“It wasn’t the fault of polygamy that they had a difficult life.”
“That’s one of the biggest perks (of polygamy) is having multiple moms.”
It’s not plural marriage that is bad for them.”
And when Kody Brown asks his teen daughter if she’s strong enough in her beliefs to defend polygamy, if others try to convince her that polygamy is harmful, she assures her father:
“I can tell them why I think it’s good.”
That is why we take issue with this show – polygamy is not good as this teenage girl has been brainwashed to believe. And each week “Sister Wives” strives to also brainwash viewers to accept this sinful and harmful lifestyle.
As our email yesterday stated, marriage – one man and one woman – was ordained and created by God. When man thumbs his nose at God’s law and design, doing “what is right in his own eyes,” there is nothing good about it.
Click here to send a message to the corporations empowering this destructive show.
The news that Joseph’s brothers had arrived became known in Pharaoh‘s palace; and it pleased Pharaoh and his servants greatly. Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Say to your brothers, ‘Do this: load your beasts, go to the land of Canaan, and take your father and your families and come to me, and I will give you the best there is in the land of Egypt, and you shall eat the best that the land can give. Now you are commanded to do this: take wagons from the land of Egypt for your little ones and for your wives, and bring your father and come. Also do not pay any attention to your household goods, for the best of all there is in the land of Egypt is yours.'” And the sons of Jacob did as they were commanded.
So Joseph gave them wagons, as Pharaoh ordered, and what was needed for the journey. To each of them he gave a change of clothing, but to Benjamin he gave three hundred pieces of silver and five changes of clothing. To his father he sent this gift: ten asses loaded with the best products of Egypt and ten asses loaded with grain and bread and provisions for his father on the journey.
So he sent his brothers away, and, as they went, he said to them, “See that you do not quarrel on the journey!” So they went up out of Egypt and came into the land of Canaan to Jacob their father, and told him, “Joseph is still alive, and he is ruler over all the land of Egypt!” Then Jacob’s heart stood still, for he could not believe them. But when they told him all that Joseph had said to them and when he saw the wagons which Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of Jacob their father revived, and he said, “It is enough; Joseph my son is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.”
Then Jacob set out on his journey with all that he had. He first went to Beersheba and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. God spoke to him in a vision by night and said, “Jacob, Jacob.” He answered, “Here am I.” God said, “I am God, the God of your father. Do not fear to go down into Egypt, for there I will make of you a great nation. I myself will go down with you into Egypt; I will surely bring you back again; and Joseph shall close your dying eyes.”
When Jacob left Beersheba, his sons carried him and their little ones and their wives in the wagons that Pharaoh had sent. Jacob also sent Judah before him to Joseph, that he might show him the way to Goshen.
When they came into the land of Goshen, Joseph made ready his chariot, and went up to Goshen to meet Jacob his father. When he met him, Jacob fell on his neck and wept there a long time.
Then Jacob said to Joseph, “Now let me die, for I have seen your face and know that you are still alive.” But Joseph said to his brothers and to his father’s household, “I will go up and tell Pharaoh and will say to him, ‘My brothers and my father’s family who were in the land of Canaan have come to me. Now the men are shepherds, for they have been keepers of cattle; and they have brought their flocks and cattle and all that they have.’ When Pharaoh calls you, and asks, ‘What is your business?’ you shall say, ‘Your servants have been keepers of cattle from our youth even until now, both we and our fathers.’ Say this that you may live in the land of Goshen, for every shepherd is looked down upon by the Egyptians.”
Then Joseph went in and told Pharaoh and said, “My father and my brothers with their sheep and cattle and all that they possess have come from the land of Canaan; and now they are in the province of Goshen.” And he took five of his brothers and presented them to Pharaoh. Pharaoh said to them, “What is your business?” They answered, “Your servants are shepherds, both we and our fathers.” They also said to Pharaoh, “We have come to live in your country; because the famine is severe in the land of Canaan, and there is no pasture for your servants’ flocks. Now, therefore, we beg of you, let your servants stay in the land of Goshen.” Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Let them stay in the land of Goshen; and if you know any able men among them, put them in charge of my cattle.”
Joseph also brought in Jacob his father and presented him to Pharaoh; and Jacob blessed Pharaoh. Then Pharaoh said to Jacob, “How many years have you lived?” Jacob answered, “I have lived a hundred and thirty years; few and evil have been the years of my life, and they have not been as many as those that my forefathers lived on earth.” After Jacob had blessed Pharaoh, he went out from Pharaoh’s presence. So Joseph gave his father and his brothers a place to live in and a home in the land of Goshen, in the best part of the land of Egypt, as Pharaoh had commanded.
Joseph also provided food for his father and his brothers and all his father’s family according to the number of the little children. So the Israelites lived in Egypt, in the land of Goshen, and there they grew wealthy and had many children.
SO long as this story stands on the page of revelation, no sinner need despair of mercy. There was hardly a sin possible to man that Manasseh did not commit. “He did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, like unto the abominations of the heathen, whom the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel.” And he made his people do worse than the heathen.
Then came awful sorrow. Bound in fetters, exposed to consummate cruelty and disgrace, he was carried to Babylon, and thrust into the dungeons, where other captive princes were immured, with little chance of liberation or permission to revisit his native land. But there the Spirit of God did his work. He humbled himself greatly, and prayed. What tears, and cries, and bursts of heart broken penitence, were his! How those walls were saturated with the breath of confession, and those stone floors indented by his kneeling at perpetual prayer! And God came near to his low dungeon, and graciously heard his supplication, and brought him back again.
Yes, and He will do as much for you. The blood of jesus Christ his Son cleanseth from all sin; the grace of God is exceedingly abundant with faith and love; all sins and blasphemies may be forgiven to the sons of men. Turn to Him with brokenness of soul, and He will not only forgive, but bring you again; and give you, as He did Manasseh, an opportunity of undoing some of those evil things which have marred your past. For the rest, it is good not to wait for affliction to stir us up to seek God, but to abide in Him for love’s dear bake.
On one occasion we were discussing a leadership shortage in the church and had spent an hour or more working through various solutions. Bob was silent throughout the discussion. Finally, he said quietly, “Gentlemen, we’ve forgotten Jesus’ solution to our leadership issue. Before we do anything, we must first ‘ask the Lord of the harvest . . . to send out workers’” (Luke 10:2 niv). We were humbled, and spent the rest of our time praying that God would raise up workers and send them into the field.
C. S. Lewis said, “The next best thing to being wise oneself is to live in a circle of those who are.” Proverbs 1:5 says, “A man of understanding will attain wise counsel.” Bob’s comment is just one example of the value of wise men and women who “have known Him who is from the beginning” (1 John 2:13-14) and whose minds are saturated with the Word of God.
Let’s take to heart the counsel of those who have lived in the Lord’s presence and are mature in His wisdom. They are God’s gift to us and our churches.
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead.
In yesterday’s reflection, I considered the implications of Paul’s enthusiastic use of language when he prays that we will know God’s power. Paul uses four synonyms to underscore the incomparable greatness of God’s power.
Today, I want to focus on one little word, a seemingly unimpressive word…”for.” It appears in the English translation of verse 19 as Paul prays that we will know God’s “incomparably great power for us who believe.” If you were to dig down into the original language of this phrase, you’d find that “for” translates the Greek word eis. Then, if you were look up this word in a Greek-English dictionary, you’d find a wide variety of options for translation, including: “into, in, toward, to, for the purpose of, for.”
What is Paul trying to say about the relationship between God’s power and us by using the Greek word eis? Many commentators see an emphasis here on the location of God’s power. It is “in us.” Later in Ephesians, Paul will say explicitly that God’s power is working “within us” (Greek en hemin; 3:20). In Romans, he explains that this power is the presence of the Holy Spirit “living in” us (Rom. 5:11). So, there’s no question about the fact that God’s power is indeed in us.
But the use of eis in Ephesians 1:19 seems to point, not so much to the location of God’s power, as to the fact that God’s power is for us, for our benefit, for our salvation, for our empowerment to participate in God’s work of redeeming all creation. Not only is God’s power given to us through the Spirit, but also God’s power is consistently working to help us who trust in him. The more we know God, the more we will know that he is using his incomparably great power for our good.
So, when you feel overwhelmed at work, remember: God’s power is for you. When your family situation seems dire, remember: God’s power is for you. When you are attempting something great as an extension of God’s kingdom, be assured: God’s power is for you!
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: In what ways have you experienced God’s power being “for you”? If you really believed that the power of God was at work in your life, what difference might this make in how you live each day?
PRAYER: Dear Lord, how I thank you for the exercise of your power. You have done and are doing wonderful things by your power. What’s even more amazing to me is that your power is at work “for me,” not against me, but for me. You are doing what is best for me. What an astounding truth! What an astounding reality! Thank you! Amen.