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Tag Archives: Salvation

God Meant It Unto Good

“But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” (Genesis 50:20)

If a person completely unfamiliar with the Book of Genesis sat down and read the first two chapters, then skipped ahead and read the final two, they would likely have the overwhelming feeling that something had gone horribly wrong in between the two sections. Perhaps unable to put their finger directly on it, they would sense that something catastrophic had occurred in between. Genesis 1 opens with God moving upon a barren planet, filling it with life and light. Genesis 50 ends with the burial of Joseph. Genesis begins with the birth of everything and ends with the burial of the final personage covered in the narrative. In short, Genesis begins with life and ends with death.

Even the most hardened atheist must concede that there seems to be something very unnatural and even unfair about the cruel, nearly mechanical cycle of life and death. All living things die eventually, but why is this so? Why is it that the human body, so resilient, so able to reproduce and revive its own cells, finally ceases all of these processes and ultimately surrenders to the cold grasp of death? How is it that everything which God created and called “good” has become otherwise?

Man has within his heart an instinct for survival, a desire to live, and an expectation of immortality. We know within our own hearts that we ought not to die, that this is not the way things were intended to be. And in reflecting on the Book of Genesis, we see that God never intended for it to be like this. Yet sin entered in; and with it, death (Rom. 5:12). This is what went horribly wrong in those chapters between the Second and Forty-ninth of Genesis: sin. We tend to blame all of our woes on external forces, but they originated within ourselves. Man has defied the Law of God and has brought death upon himself as a result.

Yet another theme is woven into the pages of Genesis, a theme that would be overlooked by the person skipping over all of those intermediate chapters. Redemption. What man has defiled, God desires to cleanse; what man has broken, God desires to fix; and what man has lost, God desires to restore. In other words: what man has thought for evil, God has meant for good. Even the sin of Adam in the Garden of Eden, which led to the death, both spiritual and physical, of every person who would ever live can be overcome by what God has done through Jesus Christ on man’s behalf. Evil intent darkened the hearts of Adam and Eve in that Original Sin, yet God brought something good in the Redemption made available by the Blood of Christ, the Redemption offered to all men whereby they might be saved.

And so it is with the wickedness of Joseph’s brothers when they sold him into slavery. What they intended for evil, God meant for good. For this single sinful act of the brothers would set into motion all of the events that would one day bring them alive into Egypt. Though by no means alleviating their responsibility for their actions, God would bring something beautiful from the ugliness that the brothers had done. Even so, we know that the brothers of Joseph repented of the wicked deed they had done and did what they could to make things right. Fearing retribution from Joseph’s hand after their father passed away, they threw themselves upon his mercy and even appealed to Jacob’s final wishes to save them. But Joseph, his eyes fixed steadfastly on the perspective of God upon the entire matter, holds no such purpose as their destruction in his mind. He deeply loved his brothers and had forgiven them. Besides this, how could he wish harm against them when what they intended for evil, God meant for good?

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published November 19, 2010]

All Scripture quotations in this post are taken from the King James Version (KJV) of the Holy Bible

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

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Joseph Reveals Himself To His Brothers

“Then Joseph could not refrain himself before all them that stood by him; and he cried, Cause every man to go out from me. And there stood no man with him, while Joseph made himself known unto his brethren.” (Genesis 45:1)

The moment of reconciliation. It is to this end that all of the actions of the preceding four chapters have been leading. It staggers the mind to think of the lengths that God has gone to in order for this very moment to come to pass; this point of reconciliation between the sons of Jacob wherein Joseph once again takes his place among them. We are reminded as we look back over the space of more than 20 years at Joseph’s dream, a dream where his eleven brothers bowed down before him (Gen. 37:5-7), that God truly does see the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10). Yet would we even begin to imagine all of the things which God brought to pass in order to make this happen? Would someone entirely unfamiliar with this account of the life of Joseph even begin to guess what would transpire in fulfillment of the prophetic dream?

Nevertheless, we know that God did these things for one end: to bring the sons of Jacob back together in the safety of the land of Egypt. All that has been leading up to this moment — the testing, the accusations of espionage and theft, the threat of placing Benjamin into slavery — were done to bring the brothers to this point in time. Do we not greatly underestimate what God will do in order to bring people to the place where He wants them?
The reconciliation between the brothers and Joseph is a portrait of the sinner’s reconciliation to Christ. All of the moments of fear, trepidation, anxiety, guilt, confusion, and frustration which the sons of Jacob experienced during their dealings with this enigmatic “governor of Egypt” are hallmarks of many of our own experiences when Christ was drawing us to Himself. Some roads longer than others, all of us were brought through moments of emotional pain, struggle and inner turmoil until we reached the point when our hearts were ready and the Lord Jesus revealed Himself to us.
It is worth noting that before the actual moment of reconciliation begins, Joseph sends every other person out of the room. “Cause every man to go out from me“, he cries. It seems to be our practice as Evangelicals to want those making an initial decision to come to Christ to go to the front of the church and announce their decision in front of everybody. But isn’t this most crucial moment in a person’s life really between them and the Lord? Sometimes we act as though their conversion is only validated by a showy presentation in front of the entire congregation. “They must confess Christ with their mouth and not be ashamed of Him”, we explain (as though there will not be time enough for public proclamation later). There isn’t anything necessarily wrong with giving an altar call, but we do well to respect what is going on at the moment between them and God. Seldom do we really know everything that has been going on in the person’s life which has brought them to this point. We do not know all that the Spirit of God has been doing in their heart in order to prepare them for the Lord Jesus Christ to reveal Himself to them and reconcile them to Himself.
Joseph’s steward and many of his other servants played a part leading up to this moment, yet when the time came, Joseph sent them all out of the room. It was just the brothers and Joseph. Why? Because the moment of reconciliation was just between them. Many of us will play a role in bringing others to Christ, but perhaps we are mistaken in insisting that we be there at the actual moment when the person is reconciled to God. Maybe our Lord is politely sending us from the room for a moment so that He might rejoice in private with that person, just as Joseph did when his brothers were reconciled to him.To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published November 9, 2010]

All Scripture quotations in this post are taken from the King James Version (KJV) of the Holy Bible

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

Joseph Accepts His Brothers’ Presents

“And when Joseph came home, they brought him the present which was in their hand into the house, and bowed themselves to him to the earth.” (Genesis 43:26)

There is something very striking about Joseph’s dealings with his brothers that might be easily overlooked. After their first journey into Egypt, as the brothers are returning home, they are startled to discover that the money which they gave to pay for their grain had been returned to them (Gen. 43:21). After the second trip, Joseph again orders that their money be discreetly restored unto them: commanding that it be secretly placed back in their sacks, as had been done the first time (Gen. 44:1). Twice the brothers attempted to pay for the food they received and twice the money was returned to them. They even tried to give double the price after the first visit and their money was not accepted (Gen. 43:23).

Yet we are told that at the urging of their father, Jacob, the brothers brought a present to give to Joseph on their second visit, and the present was received. Oh, the present wasn’t really much: a little balm, a little honey, some spices, myrrh, nuts, and almonds. But we know that it was from the best fruits the brothers had to offer (Gen. 43:11). Joseph would not accept payment for the food that he had provided to his brothers, but he would accept a freely given gift.
Continuing with our look at Joseph as a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ, we see another wonderful similarity in this. As Joseph would not accept any payment for the food that he provided to his brothers, neither will our Lord accept payment from us for the Bread of Life which He provides. Our money, our possessions, our good works, our acts of righteousness are all unacceptable currency for securing for us the gift of Eternal Life that Jesus offers. There is absolutely nothing which we can use to purchase Eternal Life because it was paid for by His own blood. But a gift — a present freely offered to the Lord out of our gratitude — that He will accept. God will honor that which we bring to Him voluntarily from our own best fruits.

Corn In Egypt

“And he said, Behold, I have heard that there is corn in Egypt: get you down thither, and buy for us from thence; that we may live, and not die.” (Genesis 42:2)

Chapter 41 of Genesis ends by telling us how severe the famine affecting Egypt, Canaan, and all the surrounding nations became. “All countries came into Egypt to Joseph“, Verse 57 says, “…because that the famine was so sore in all lands.” Chapter 42 opens with Jacob’s response upon learning that there is food available in Egypt. In his response, we see four factors which mirror the steps a person takes in coming to Christ:

Recognizing Our Need

The first, and possibly the most crucial step, is recognizing our need for Christ. Before anything else, Jacob needed to be aware of his hunger or he would never make any effort to fill it. Before a sinner can repent and come to the Lord Jesus Christ, he must realize that what he has called his spiritual food is unsatisfying and emaciating. As a small child is tempted to fill their bellies with nothing but candy and sweets, so are many people contented to try to meet their spiritual nutritional needs by consuming whatever pleases their own tastes, starving all the while. Jesus said that He is the “Bread of Life” (John 6:35), but until a person knows that they have need of this Bread in order to live, they will not come to Him. If Jacob and his sons had remained satisfied eating the old and rotting scraps and fragments of leftovers they had at home, they would never have gone to where the food was.

Knowing Where The Food Is Not

“Now when Jacob saw that there was corn in Egypt, Jacob said unto his sons, Why do ye look one upon another?” (Genesis 42:1)
It is amazing the places people will look in an effort to find the answers to their problems. Rather than looking to God, most people are busy looking to one another for the answers. Every couple of years a new spiritual “guru” will emerge and write a bestselling book that promises to enlighten anyone who reads it. There is no God, is their repeated mantra, the answers lie within yourself. But looking to another human being for spiritual food is about as productive as the starving sons of Jacob looking to one another for something to eat.

Knowing Where the Food Is

“And [Jacob] said, Behold, I have heard that there is corn in Egypt…” (Genesis 42:2a)
Jacob heard where to find food. Sri Lankan evangelist D.T. Niles is quoted as having said, “Evangelism is just one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread”; and that is exactly what we are doing when we share the Gospel Message. For apart from Christ we are all starving to death, the only difference is when we know where to go to find food.

Going To Where the Food Is

“And Joseph’s ten brethren went down to buy corn in Egypt.” (Genesis 42:3)
The key word in this verse is “went.” The sons of Jacob responded by going. This is a picture of life-saving faith in action. We can hear from another beggar where to find food, but suppose we do not believe them? And even if we do, what if we do not take action and go to where they have told us? If Jacob’s sons had decided to just stay at home, if Jacob had doubts about whether or not there really was any food in Egypt and had waited for “proof” or “evidence” that the corn in Egypt was real, this whole family would have still starved to death. Hearing alone will not fill an empty stomach, only by going to the One Who has the Bread will we “live and not die” (Gen. 42:2).To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published October 15, 2010]

All Scripture quotations in this post are taken from the King James Version (KJV) of the Holy Bible

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

Taking Lot By The Hand

“But he hesitated. So the men seized his hand and the hand of his wife and the hands of his two daughters, for the compassion of the Lord was upon him; and they brought him out, and put him outside the city. (Genesis 19:16)

There really is not much that we can find comforting or encouraging in Genesis 19, but Verse 16 is quite reassuring. Lot is commanded by the two angels to depart from the city of Sodom and warned that if he does not, he too shall be consumed. I like to think that, had I been in Lot’s shoes, those two angels would have had a hard time keeping up with me as I sprinted full-speed for the hills. But, looking back on my own track record, it is just as likely that I would have responded the same way Lot did.

The angels could not have made the urgency of the situation any clearer to Lot and his family. Yet what did Lot do? He hesitated. Lot’s co-operation with those trying to save him was not very impressive. How often do we do the same thing when we receive instructions from the Lord? We delay, we procrastinate, we make excuses. He tells us, “Go now” and we answer, “Just a minute.” There were things in Sodom that Lot really had no desire to leave behind. We know that he believed God, but he definitely had one eye on Heaven and one on Earth.

What I find so comforting about this particular verse is the response that the two angels, acting on God’s behalf, give to Lot’s hesitation. Did they tell him that he was out of luck because he did not act quickly enough? Did they stand there and reason with him, argue with him, or continue to try to persuade him? No, there just was not time enough for that. Did they walk away, shaking their heads, telling him that they were sorry but he had forfeited his salvation from Sodom because of his hesitation? No. They laid hold on his hand and brought him forth!

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” (John 10:27-29)

The Lord Jesus is our Shepherd, leading us by His voice. We are His sheep and are guided by His Word. But what happens when we fall behind, when we ourselves linger and become too far away to hear the sound of His voice? He leaves the other sheep to search us out until He has found us (Luke 15:4). He comes back to us, calling out to us all the while. And when He does find us, He carries us upon His own shoulders and brings us to safety (Luke 15:5-6). We see in John 10:27-29 that we hear His voice, He knows us, and we follow Him. But we also see that He is holding us in His own hand.

Lot was saved from the destruction that came upon Sodom (God’s  judgment) because he believed God. Lot was not told by the angels: “OK, here’s what’s gonna happen. Good luck and we’ll see you on the other side!” They led him every step of the way, and when he started to fall behind, they took him out by the hand. When we put our faith in Jesus Christ, we may lose our way from time to time. We may linger and hesitate to keep in step with where He is taking us, but our Salvation is not contingent on our own efforts any more than Lot’s was. Once we have put our faith in Him, once we have become a part of His flock, He will bring us to safety, even if He must take us by the hand and carry us.

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published January 22, 2010]

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

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