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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Assessing Life

“How old are you?” Women are often reputed for fudging the answer to that question. Jacob not only answers Pharaoh’s question, but he also offers commentary, “The years of my pilgrimage are a hundred and thirty. My years have been few and difficult” (Genesis 47:9). 
Truly, Jacob’s life has been one of difficulty:
  • Jacob lived his boyhood in the shadow of his father’s preference of his elder twin. He never measured up to being a “manly man.”
  • Jacob and Rebekah’s deception of Isaac cost Jacob dearly. He had to flee the security of home.
  • Jacob’s years with Laban and his family were challenging, to say the least. He was deceived by Laban, married to two women who fought constantly, despised by most of his sons, treated irrationally by his employer, robbed of his favored son, and bombarded with deep grief.     
Such is a life of one who seeks to live independently of God. No God, no peace. Know God, know peace. Even in the midst of adversity. 
Jacob’s story teaches a number of truths about God and life:
  • God takes a man as he is. He uses life’s hardships and consequences to corral a man, break him of an independent spirit, enlarge him (“Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness. Thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress” - Psalm 4:1, KJV), and reveal Himself to him. 
  • Continual friction and hardship are inadequate gauges to use in assessing life. A person may live a life of ease and not know God. Does a man come to know God in the process? That’s all that matters!
Rather live a long life of difficulty and get to know God than to live a long life full of fun and not know God at all!

Older Post 
"Joseph went and told Pharaoh, "My father and brothers, with the flocks and herds and everything they own, have come from the land of Canaan and are now in Goshen. Pharaoh said to Joseph, "Your father and your brothers have come to you, and the land of Egypt is before you; settle your father and your brothers in the best part of the land. Let them live in Goshen."

Psalm 105:17-19 describes Joseph's preparatory time in Egypt, "He sent a man before them--Joseph-- who was sold as a slave. They hurt his feet with fetters, he was laid in irons until the time that his word came to pass. The word of the Lord tested him." (Psalm 105:17-19)

Joseph attended God's School of Leadership Training from age seventeen until age thirty. God's educational program lasted thirteen years and consisted of three courses resulting in three separate grades. He couldn't precede to the next course until he passed the previous course. How'd he do?

The first course: The Passage of Time
God spoke to him in a dream when he was just seventeen years old and then confirmed it in a second dream. Thirteen years pass as he waits. And he waits some more. He trusts in the Lord the entire time. Everyone around him recognizes the peace of God upon his life. This first course was to teach this future leader how to wait upon God. With seven years of devastating worldwide drought ahead of him he would need this life skill. Waiting teaches future leaders that faith and scheming don't mix (See Isaiah 64:4). Grade: A+

The second course: The Problem of Suffering
Joseph was betrayed by his brothers and sold, first to a band of traders, and then again, to a wealthy Egyptian. Tough stuff for a favored child! If that's not enough he is falsely accused of sexual harassment by the boss' wife and wronging thrown into prison. While there he is forgotten by a fellow prisoner who forgets the prophetic word Joseph gives him about his restored position in Pharaoh's house. Joseph remains in prison for two more years. Time flies when you are having fun but drags on and on during suffering; although Joseph wasn't having fun he remains faithful. Suffering teaches future leaders perseverance and godly character (Romans 5:3-4). Joseph would need plenty of both for the years ahead of him. Grade: A+

Third course: The Place of Forgiveness
Think of the people that Joseph had to forgive: his brothers, his boss, his boss' wife, and Pharaoh's cupbearer. Betrayal teaches future leaders to see the redemptive hand of God even in the pain caused by others. Joseph would need to demonstrate tenderness toward others as the second in command of a suffering nation. Grade: A+

The Word of God tests you too. Are you waiting on the Lord or fretting and scheming? Are you rejoicing in your suffering or complaining bitterly? Are you holding a grudge against someone or forgiving them graciously and freely? Your becoming a leader depends on how you answer these questions. How are you doing? Joseph reveals a heart of complete forgiveness when he asks Pharaoh for the best part of the land for his father and brothers. Those who forgive and see God in the midst of their circumstances offer the best to those who've hurt them.

Questions for today's Chronological Bible reading:
1 Chronicles 1:1-23; 7:1-5, 30-40; Genesis 46:19-25-47:12
  • Describe Joseph and his father's reunion.
  • Why does Pharaoh show such generosity to Jacob and his sons?
  • How does Jacob describe his life to Pharaoh?
  • What does Joseph, his brothers, and their father learn about God over the past twenty-plus years? 
Turning truth into prayer
Unforgiveness robs people of leadership potential. Ask the Lord to pinpoint people in your life for whom you wish less than the best because of residual bitterness or unforgiveness.