THE FAITH AND FATE OF JOB
This morning, I had an interesting encounter with one of my partners concerning why God allows suffering. This universal question is not an easy one to address. But I will admit that my ministry partner was definitely struggling with this issue this morning. And my responses to this individual plight certainly did not help at the time.
So, after my discussion with this person, I was prompted to further investigate this question from the scripture for clarity, which led me to the Book of Job. In my writings, I have addressed this topic before. But through this study, I gained more insight and revelation, which I was able to later share with my ministry partner that I previously had this discussion with – which did bring her some comfort.
The complexity and complication behinD god
As I seat here and complicate the discussion I just had, one thing I learned in my walk with Christ is that he is complex and complicated.
Complex means hard to separate, analyze, or solve. Another way of describing this is that he is incomprehensible. Complicated means consisting of intricating parts that are difficult to analyze, understand or explain.
So, here lies the problem from our discussion this morning. Many of us truly believe we can explain God – His ways, His reasoning, and why He does or does not do a thing. We believe we can explain God – although God’s Word shows that He is multifaceted, complex, and complicated. Job had this same complex about God. He too thought He understood all there is to know about God. But we can gain some insight through his circumstances in the Book of Job. That he and his friends did not understand God as well as they thought they did. And Satan truly underestimated God and how and why God does the things He does. So, let’s gain some insight and maybe revelation concerning why Godly people suffer through the conversation Job had with his three friends.
Now, it is quite natural to start with Job chapters one and two where Satan challenges God concerning the faith and fate of Job. But for the purpose of this discussion, that is not the best place to start. I think it is best to start where Job’s three friends come into the picture and focus our attention on the words of Job’s fourth friend who will provide us some insight concerning human suffering and why we sometimes we do not get the response we expect from God.
Job’s Health declines
The first thing we want to point out about the Book of Job is its theme. It not only speaks of the sovereignty of God. But throughout the book, it focuses on the suffering of Godly people – particularly in Job’s case.
In Job chapter 2, we see that his health begins to deteriorate. At Job chapter 2, verse 7 says
As a result, his wife despitefully responded to Job.
The question that Job’s wife proposed is important in analyzing the universal question as to why the righteous (Godly people) suffer. Job’s three companions as well as his fourth friend will provide us with some insight.
Job’s three friends
Just like any loving friend who hears of a friend’s dying situation, Job’s three companions come to the aid of Job as soon as they hear about it. In Job chapter 2, verse 11, says that Eliphaz the Temanite, Bilad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite came from his own place to see Job, in order to mourn and comfort him.
When they arrived, they all did not recognize Job. So, for the first 7 days and nights, they did not speak a word because of Job’s great grief (Job 2:13).
Eventually, each friend will speak concerning Job’s plight and when they did this is what they said.
Eliphaz: proclaimed that Job was suffering due to some sin of his own that Job committed. We see this in chapter 4, verse 8 when he says to Job
Eliphaz believed that those who have sinned in some way is deserving to be punished. And this is what Job was experiencing.
Bildad: further adds that not only has Job sinned, but he needs to repeat from whatever sin he has committed. He said
This was followed by the thoughts of Zaphar who continues by saying.
Zaphar: not only did Job sin and needs to repent. But he is getting what he deserves.
All three of Job’s friends drew the same conclusion concerning Job’s predicament. Job’s suffering is directly linked to his sin, which is deserving of punishment. Yet, through it all, Job maintained his innocence. (See Job chapters 12 and 16).
At some point, a fourth friend shows up in the mix of their conversation – Elihu. Elihu takes a different approach from Job’s three friends. He is conflicted by what Job’s three friends have concluded as well as Job’s response to their assumptions. Elihu strongly believes that Job’s three friends provided him with no real answer to his suffering and yet they condemned Job any way (Job 32:3). This in itself is hypocrisy.
At the same time, Elihu draws the same conclusion about Job’s perspective about his situation. Elihu declared that Job was righteous in his own eyes. While at the same time, Job was attempting to justify himself rather than God (See Job chapter 32, verses 1 and 2).
Initially, Elihu avoids offering his own opinion concerning Job’s situation. Stating – “… I dared not declare my opinion to you” (Job 32:6). Instead, Elihu fully acknowledges that it is only God who can give understanding to Job’s situation.
And then he adds, “great men are not always wise. Nor do the aged always understand justice” (Job 32:9). Elihu continues in chapter 33 by stating, “… God is greater than man.” (verse 12). Therefore, God is not required to give an accounting of any His words, along with His actions or the lack thereof (Job 33:13). Elihu acknowledges that in different circumstances God may speak one way than another in a different set of circumstances. Either way, man does not always perceive it (Job 33:14).
The key thing Elihu wanted Job and his companion to understand were that God will never act wickedly nor pervert justice (Job 34:13). Then Elihu asked this timely question at Job 34:17 and 35:2.
He goes on and declares that God will not listen to empty talk, nor will the Almighty regard it (Job 35:13).
Before God interjects, Elihu continues by saying that God is righteous (Job 36:3). Perfect in knowledge (Job 36:4). He is might in strength of understanding (Job 36:5). That God is exalted by His power (Job 36:22). He acknowledges that God is great and yet man does not know Him (Job 36:26). He declares that God does great things that we as humans cannot comprehend (Job 37:5). That God causes things to happen whether it is for the purpose to correct, or to show His mercy (Job 37:13). He goes on and says that God is excellent in power, in judgment and abundant in justice and He does not oppress (Job 37:23). Then he adds that God does not show any partiality to any who are wise of heart (Job 37:24).
god'S response to job
Then in chapters 38 through 41, God responds to Job’s plight by questioning Job to ask. Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth (Job 38:4)? Tell me if you have understanding? Who determines its measurements? Surely you know (Job 38:5).
The point behind God questioning Job is not that God believe Job had or knew the answers. For Job did not. The point God was making to Job was that God is sovereign. Therefore, man cannot understand His workings by means of rational thinking alone. God is sovereign in that He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and everywhere. Therefore, His decisions, and the way He chooses to do things is final and do not need the confirmation or understanding of man’s logic. (Compare to Job 42:2; Daniel 4:17).
What Job needed to understand above all things is that God’s intention toward him was good. What God allowed concerning his life was not for the purpose to harm him. Instead, it served to solidify Job’s faith. To show Job and his companion that God was Job’s advocate and not his adversary. Through his circumstances, Job declared his innocence and questioned God’s justice. When in turn he should have waited for God to work out his situation and exercised patience and humility. Job’s experience came about through circumstances beyond his control. And yet his perseverance and endurance resulted in Job receiving the full unfolding of God’s goodness – that is the complete restoration of his situation.
We do not always know or understand why we suffer – like in the case of Job. Some things about human suffering cannot be explained without destroying the very purpose for which it was designed for. But in the case of Job. It was through his suffering that God was able to bring Job to the end of himself- his self-righteousness, self-vindication, and self-wisdom. So, that Job can truly find God – God's pure essence.
So Let’s wrap this up by concluding
Elihu, Job’s fourth friend, demonstrated the previous paragraph when he said a person’s understanding is not due to age or status in life but rather is a result of the operation of the Spirit of God (Job 32:8).
God summarizes it this way. Understand that honest struggle on faith’s journey is more honoring to God than religious-sounding talk or mere religious observance (Job 43:7-8).
As a result, Job closes by declaring I know you can do everything. Therefore, I have uttered what I did not understand (Job 42:3).
He continues in verses 5 and 6.
Then in verse 10 of Job chapter 42, Job prays for his three companions who misunderstood what God was allowing to take place in his situation.
The key point we need to walk away with is this.
God Already Performed A Miracle
Part 1: Healing vs Sickness
God has already programmed our DNA with His anointing power to self-regulate, self-examine, and to heal itself whenever and wherever the body is needed. That is our body default setting whenever we need it. Therefore, technically God really doesn't have to perform any additional marvelous wonders concerning our health because He has already done it in the way He has designed us. BUT! Because of a 3 letter, simple word called sin. Our sinful, lustful desires to lust for and after things that are not of God nor pleasing to God, it is as if in many cases, there is a misfire, or an error, or malfunction, a dysfunction in the way our DNA's ability to heal itself. Resulting in an alternative intervention on God's part to directly do the impossible.
God wants To forgive
god wants to forgive
The infamous question that many have proposed is this.
Before addressing this question, let’s clearly define wicked. The Hebrew word for wicked is rasha (H7563), which simply means, anyone who is guilty of sin or ungodly acts or actions. So, let’s make this clear because we need to understand this.
This means we all are considered “wicked.” Why? Because we all are tailored towards sin – acting wickedly.
Let me illustrate this in two ways.
So, with that being said, we are all guilty for some form of wicked or evil acts. Hence, why we all need JESUS. There is no way any of us can survive without accepting what he has done for us at the cross and then living our lives through acts of repentance and holiness.
So, if it is humanly impossible for us to live a righteous life, to walk upright, and to please a perfect God, why bother? Because when we genuinely turn to Christ for direction on how to live and then apply his formula by relying on him to help groom us into his likeness – THEN NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE. (Compare to Genesis 1:27, Mark 10:27). Because EVERYTHING, ALL THINGS are possible not with man, BUT ONLY WITH GOD. Hence why we need to discuss this question that so many have proposed – does God take pleasure in the death of the wicked? In the book of Ezekiel, we are provided an answer.
God is merciful and forgiving but there are conditions
In Ezekiel chapter 18, verse 21, it says.
And here is that infamous word again – “if.” Remember, we previously talked about the importance of understanding that “if” whenever it shows up in God’s Word. Why and what is it again? Remember, I explained before that “if” is a conditional statement, which simply means, IF you want to benefit from or gain access to something being offered to you, it is based “on the condition that” you must do something in turn for it.
In verse 21 of Ezekiel chapter 18, God states clearly here, that we (the wicked) can gain eternal life. (Also see John 3:16). He says, “they (meaning we, the wicked) will surely live and not die.” But He also enforces three prerequisites (conditions) that we (the wicked) must fulfill before we can gain access or benefit from the latter part of that Scripture – that is, “they will surely live and not die.” Here are the conditions.
We have to meet all three of these conditions and then, we who are guilty of sin, who does deserve to die for our waywardness, our gross disobedience; CAN NOW LIVE. Can be forgiven and live.
In the next verse of Ezekiel chapter 18, it says.
I love the way how Psalm 103:12 puts it. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He (God) removed our transgressions (our sins) from us. Hebrews even says it better. “And I will remember their sins no more” (Hebrews 8:12). Yes, every evil or wicked deed we ever acted or spoken; God will blot it out as if they never have taken place (Isaiah 43:25). Hmmm, now that’s mercy. What a loving, forgiving God we serve.
choose to live
So, does God take pleasure in the death of the wicked? It is clearly a resounding NO. God wants all of us to LIVE. If you drop down in Ezekiel chapter 18 to verse 32. God states
So, if God has no desire for us to die and He wants all of us to live, to choose life. Why do we die if He is a merciful and gracious God? Again, like in most things, whether it's the promises God has made to us directly or in His Word. Or whether it is prophetic words spoken in God’s Word or through a man or woman that God has legitimately picked for such a role (Compare to 1 Corinthians chapter 12). Often time, there are conditions that are attached to those declarations. If we do this or act or live this way, it is then and only then that God will do His part.
So, if it is God’s desire for the wicked to live, then what must be done – what is the condition that must be met? We need to add one more thing to our previous list of conditions stated from the previous section, which is stated in the first condition but we need to make it clearer.
In that same chapter and verse of Ezekiel, the latter part says.
Then the LORD Thy God can blot out all of your wicked sins. Forget that you ever made them. Forgive you for any and everything. Bless and prosper you and then give you eternal LIFE. (Also, compare to Deuteronomy chapter 28).
I think I need to quote a passage from my first book to make the point that has been brewing in my spirit since Friday, November 26. I have prayed into this thing and even tried to ignore it. But now, I feel compelled not only to speak truth and correction into this situation. But also life. For God is about to once again visit every household to shake its foundation. And in this shaking, we are either going to find ourselves shielded and protected from the things that are about to befall each household because we are His and in right standing with the LORD. Or, we will find ourselves and our household is shaken in dismay and disarray because we either are not His or we thought we were okay – in good standing with God when we actually were not. Matthew chapter 3, verses 8 through 10 explains this better than I can. So, let’s read. This is John the Baptist speaking to the Pharisees and Sadducees, who thought they were God’s chosen leaders and in good standing with the LORD. John said,
Let me stop right there for a moment. And let’s bring this verse to modern time so we don’t miss this point. Many of us who call ourselves leaders have a past. A past that we are not too proud of. If we could bury it and wipe it from our own memories and the memories of others, we would. For example, and I have to say it this way to ensure, the persons I am speaking to tonight don’t miss this point. Because the LORD is speaking to specific people today that I am not going to call by name. But I am aware of who they are.
For some of us leaders, whether female or male. The cleanest way I can say this is we were fast. (You can choose whatever alternative words you want to substitute there to drive home the point). We had multiple partners that we slept with. And thank God, many of us got our acts together and stopped sleeping around. Some of us got married to wonderful wives or husbands. While others might have chosen to remain single for a season while practicing abstinence. Allowing us to present ourselves holy in this regard before a holy God (1 Corinthians 6:11).
Now, in the minds of some of you. Because you have stopped performing unclean and unholy sexual acts or running the streets as some of you call it. You absolutely feel that you are officially now in right standing with God. Very little else is required of you because you have been delivered from sexual sins.
But tonight, God wants to go deeper with you guys. With you who call yourself His leaders. I got to emphasize this because this is what God is emphasizing to me. You who CALL YOURSELF His leaders.
With those who call themselves His leaders, you must be mindful that “… when someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required” (Luke 12:48). So, let’s not get this confused. Because the blessings of the LORD should never be confused with the things of the world.
Now, I got to sidetrack for a minute in order to state this disclaimer. God does not have any problem with blessing His servants with material wealth, FOR THE PURPOSE OF ADVANCING HIS KINGDOM. When the increase of our assets and belongings seems to primarily be used to advance our own kingdom, our luxurious taste, and lifestyle. Then there is conflict and often confusion about what truly is the source of your blessing. Because we got to look at something that was said to Jesus at Matthew chapter 4, verses 8 and 9. And this is what Satan the devil said to Jesus the Christ. Satan took Jesus to the peak of a very high mountain. And from that mountain top, Satan shows Jesus everything that was in Satan’s possession that was in the world. And says to Jesus, I can give you any and everything from any kingdom of the world. In fact, I can give you all the kingdoms of this world and everything in them.
The point I want you to get from those two verses is that Satan can give blessings too. Blessings that may appear to be from God but truly are only distractions to keep us complacent and content. Making us feel like we are achieving God’s will when we actually are only fulfilling the lust of our flesh at the expense of others.
Now, I can tie this point I just made, back into the main point we are making about open wounds. But there is something even deeper God wants to address.
unhealed openED wounds
Going back to Matthew chapter 3, verses 8 through 10. Let’s pick up where we left off previously.
The Pharisees and Sadducees, professed leaders of God, thought they were “safe” by association. They thought their ties to Abraham were enough to keep them safe and from any destruction that might fall upon mankind. But noticed what John continues to say.
The Pharisees and Sadducees failed to understand that their position and association with Abraham was not enough to guarantee them a rightful place in God’s Kingdom. More was required of them. (Compare to Luke 12:48). Similarly today, too many who call themselves leaders fail to understand that more is required of you than claiming a title for yourself in God’s Kingdom work and being delivered from a single sin such as sexual sins. A leader must become whole – allowing God to properly take them through the wholeness process that leads to your full deliverance from open wounds. For wounds that are left untreated will always cause such traits as hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outburst of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, and envy to dominate sections of God’s Body and Kingdom work. (Compare Galatians 5:18-22).
Let me elaborate on an excerpt from my book, Surrendering: A Blueprint Of My Life, from chapter 8, titled, Letting Go Of All Anger, Resentment, And Bitterness.
Now, these were all Scriptures God made we eat first. I had to learn to live and be healed by them before I was able to capture the lesson I had learned to walk out myself into a book for others to benefit from. Remember, too much is given, much is expected (Luke 12:48). I cannot teach what I have not properly walked out myself. But God did not just stop right there. Through writing this book, God showed me time and time again that I had opened wounds. Wounds that I learned to nurse but not for the purpose to add ointment to them in order that they may heal, which would naturally lead to my emotional healing. But instead, by the way, I was living, I was purposely was picking at these wounds and causing more tissue scars – more self-inflicted wounds. Resulting in internal infections that were slowly killing me. There was a silent killer living within me for years because I refused to allow God to properly operate on my opened wounds and provide me the true healing I despairingly needed. And yet, in my mind, I thought I was good, okay, or safe, as John the Baptist called it. (Compare to Matthew 4:9)
LEADERS WHO WON’T LET GOD HEAL THEIR OPENED WOUNDS
God wants so much to gather His leaders. You know what, let’s just read it from the Scriptures. And I partially quote. “How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings….” (Luke 13:34) Nothing pleases God more than to protect any and everyone that He calls His. But even God sometimes finds Himself in an awkward position. A dilemma. He says in that same verse. “… But you wouldn’t let.”
Some of you, who call yourself leaders. Again, I got to emphasize this because this is what God is emphasizing to me. For those who call themselves leaders – His leaders. Today, this has become your dilemma. Too many of you are operating out of your hurt – your opened wounds. That has resulted in
Let me close out with this. Whenever we failed to allow God to properly walk us fully through our healing process from all our opened wounds. We take on things that God never called us to or before we are truly ready for them because we are trying to compensate for the internal turmoil we have not fully nor properly dealt with. Trying to fill avoid and painful areas in our life through titles and positions of power and control over people that will make us feel self-important and fulfilled. Although we are failing to gain proper control and healing over our own lives and affairs. As a result, we are triggered, emotionally triggered when either God sends someone our way or someone of more maturity comes along to show us ourselves – the error in our way.
And once upon a time, I was no different. In my situation, God decided to use someone who at the time was more of a seasoned woman of faith than I was. Now, in my defense, which she later admitted, she should have handled my situation differently. But it didn’t matter! God used it. In that situation, it triggered within me a bad and poor response. But it was that situation that brought into the open a trigger reaction from being wounded by someone in the present but I responded from an unhealed wounded place from my past, which actually was what I needed to save my life, my soul. That pastor’s wife bad handling of my situation, got me to see, to really see, I was operating out of a wounded spirit. Which in turn, allowed God to use it to help me to properly heal because now I can see it.
Let me make this a little clearer and close by quoting from my book that I mentioned earlier. This quote comes from chapter 9 of my book, titled, Forgiving Others And Myself.
For those who continue to call themselves leaders in God’s House but fail to properly deal with their opened wounds that contribute to more disruption. Just remember, too much is given, much is expected (Luke 12:48). You cannot continue to try to fulfill your hurts by (1) spilling your painful experience on the people you claim to serve; (2) avoiding addressing your own wounded issues by avoiding counsel of correction (Hebrews 12:6); (3) by redirecting counsel that is meant for you through means of manipulation which is a form of witchcraft or playing the victim card. Or, one of my favorite that I see far too often. (4) Everyone around needs deliverance from something except for you. For you have already mastered that and everything else. Therefore, you are able to deliver and bless any and everyone from whatever stronghold has a hold over them. And yet, you have not have been fully delivered yourself. This is why the Scriptures encourage us at 2 Corinthians 13:5-10.
Properly Dealing With rejection
Sometimes, as Kingdom citizens, or I should say, Christians, we need friendly reminders of what our worth is. Not as to men. Because that can change from minute to minute, depending on how an individual, a group, or family feels about you in a given moment. So, we need friendly reminders of what our worth is from God’s perspective.
And that’s what I gained during my morning personal Bible study after studying Ezekiel chapter 2. I felt completely refreshed. In fact, throughout my day, I could not get this chapter and the notes I had taken off my mind. So much so that I caught myself saying as I was meditating, “Okay, now I understand.” “That one really helped.” Or, that gave me clarity I really needed.”
So, as I am winding my evening down, I just don’t think I will be able to get any sleep if I did not share some of my study notes with you guys. I hope you will find it encouraging, uplifting, and refreshing as I have found it to be for me.
Reviewing Ezekiel chapter 2
One of the very first things God reminds me of, as I read the first few verses in Ezekiel chapter 2, is that God calls each one of us to the ministry for a specific purpose. Often time, we as the Church get caught up in the appointment and approval by men who place people in specific roles. Rather that be pastor, apostle, prophet, evangelist, or Bible teacher. We all have a specific assignment in the body of Christ. But I believe it all too often gets distorted and clouded by the appointment of men who far too often places men and women into roles that God never intended for them.
So, in chapter 2, in the first three verses, God reminded me that it is He and only He that calls a man or a woman to a specific role in His Body. (Compare to 1 Corinthians 12:11, 14, 18, 24-25, 28). And that it is He that will provide His Spirit to guide and help these ones to learn and operate in that role efficiently and effectively. (Compare to John 16:13). God said to Ezekiel, “… Son of man, I am sending you to the sons of Israel….” And as God was speaking to Ezekiel, the Spirit of the LORD entered Ezekiel (Ezekiel 2:1-3).
Now, does God randomly gives us an assignment and let us figure it out on our own – allowing us to insert our opinions, belief systems, and preferences as we go about doing ministry? Well, let us look at what He says to Ezekiel concerning this call God placed on Ezekiel’s life.
Yes, Ezekiel had a very difficult assignment from God. But despite this difficulty of His assignment, Ezekiel had a higher calling and responsibility or obligation. This is clearly stated at verse 7. It says, “… you shall speak My word to them whether they listen or not….”
Right there is when it finally hit me. I get it, LORD! I get it. Here’s is what the LORD wanted, no needed me to walk away with from my Bible reading this morning.
Being Okay with rejectioN
At this point, in the nation of Israel's history, God’s people had become just another heathen nation. They looked no different from the surrounding nations. If we the people, meaning the Church. If we honestly evaluated the sociodemographic structure of the church today, and we closely examine its heart condition and status, its mindset, and its loyalty and preferences, would we find a church that looks very similar to God’s people that Ezekiel preached to?
Assuming that is the case, then God’s ministers today find themselves in the same state as did Ezekiel during his day. True ministers of God today are preaching to a stubborn, obstinate, and rebellious people. Despite this fact, we still have the responsibility to preach “thus says the LORD God.” This was extremely important in Ezekiel’s ministry because he did not have the room or luxury to insert his own viewpoint. The nation, God’s people, did not have that kind of time on their hands. The people had reached a point of no return. And prophets like Ezekiel were the people’s last hope, last chance to repent and to get right with God before time had run out for them.
For the purpose of Ezekiel’s ministry was not to speak the word of the LORD, and then wait around for the people to do that right, and then give them the next word the LORD had for them. No. The purpose God sent Ezekiel into ministry is so that (1) the people will know that a prophet (a true prophet of God) has been among them (v.5). And, (2) so that, the word of the LORD is clearly spoken to God’s people (v.7). Therefore, when all is said and done, God’s people will have no excuse for their specific outcome – whether they heed God’s warnings through His true prophets or not (Compare to Romans 1:20; Amos 3:7).
This is why God kept emphasizing to Ezekiel that he could not consume himself with how the people received his message. Whether the people received his word or not was not of Ezekiel's concern nor responsibility. Ezekiel was only responsible for speaking exactly what the LORD had given him to speak. Nothing more and nothing less.
Ministry can be very challenging when you are being honorable and obedient to what the LORD has given you to speak. That is what the LORD will hold us accountable for. (Compare to Ezekiel 33:7-9). But the LORD does not hold ministers of the LORD accountable for the reactions of the people to that message. Those who hear the word have a responsibility to the word, the message, they have heard. For we all have to work out our own salvation. (Compare to James 1:22; Matthew 13:3-9; 18-23; 1 Corinthian 5:17).
god is relentless
The only way we can truly find God, to discover who really is the ONE TRUE LIVING GOD among gods. To hear from God to where He becomes truly real to you. It is as simple as this.
Jeremiah 29:13 - (This is God speaking to the prophet Jeremiah, and now He is speaking to you).
“WITH ALL YOUR HEART”. You got to let go of all your biases, personal perspectives, opinions, knowledge, and what you have been taught about God to find the ONE TRUE LIVING GOD among gods.
god is relentless!
I remembered when God had convinced me between 2011 through about 2013, by means of one encounter after another that He is God. And there was no other God like Him. I was so convinced and convicted that I could no longer doubt the existence of God, His power, and that He is living and active because of the encounters I was having between 2011 and 2013 (Exodus 15:11).
During that period, the things I was seeing, hearing, and dreaming appeared to be more real experiences than life itself is the best way I can describe the encounters. They forced me to a place where I could no longer deny the encounters I was having. It also made me had to confront myself and face God in my ignorance.
These divine encounters with God left me feeling that I no longer had any more excuses concerning Him except one. Me. My own pride and stubbornness. I was getting in my own way because at first, I wasn't willing to seek nor inquire of Him [as a vital necessity] with all my heart.
I was okay with coasting through life with a distorted view of God. And probably with quite a few errors about Him. I was okay with not building my own knowledge and understanding of God but living off of a foundation created by others of who He is and what He is like. I was purely okay with living or drying in my own sins and dealing with whatever the consequences would be later. After all, we live and then we die right? (Food for thought).
But at some point, I reached a place where I could no longer ignore and deny who He is because of the dreams, the visions, the encounters He was putting before me for almost 2 years. God was relentless concerning me and getting me to not only see and acknowledge Him but to commit. To submit to His mighty Hands.
the straw that broke the camel’s back
The straw for me that finally broke the camel's back, was when Felicia and I were talking about the name of God. One day, she asked me this question. "Why do you always only call God Jehovah? I never heard you use the name Jesus or call Him by any other name or even title but Jehovah." Now, I don't remember exactly the explanation I gave Felicia at that time. But knowing me, I probably was long-winded in my response.
At any rate, this conversation for the first time in years forced me to have to pull out my Bible. Which was packed up in a box along with some other of my favorite religious books I was holding onto but hadn’t touched in I don’t know, over 8, 9, maybe 10 years. It was something Felicia said to me at that time that made me curious. At this point, in our rededicating our lives to Christ (genuinely searching for God in our own ways but purely from the heart). Felicia was reading her bible regularly but I hadn't quite gotten there yet. I still was battling and carrying guilt and shame and uncertainty about this God thing. But I really wanted clarity about this name situation Felicia had brought up that we were discussing. Either she was right and I had in the past built my Christian faith on unstable grounds. Or she was wrong and the explanation I gave at that time was right. And if she was wrong, it probably would further delay my progress. So, I needed to know.
Now keep in mind. Even though I wasn't a practicing Christianity at that time and for many years prior - I had been absent in the Christian faith. I am a person who dare not pretend to be holy while I was living fowl. That is just not in my nature. Either I’m all in or all out. Either I’m for a Christian way of living based on Biblical standards or I am not. For me, there is no gray area, in between, faking the funk, or faking it until you make it. I just don’t believe you can swim in (live in) sin and still profess to be a Christian. The two don’t mush. Either you are for God or for your sin but not both.
Now, at this point, when Felicia and I were having this conversation on this day, I was no longer living in my sin and had not been for years. But I still was not living for God either. I was still going through the motions trying to figure things out. But despite my lack of commitment, one skill set I still did possess at that time, was my ability to recall and quote Scriptures. I was still well versed and able to quote Scriptures. I was a pretty good Bible teacher back in the day prior to my fall from grace. But at that moment when Felicia and I were having this conversation about God’s name. Her inquiry challenged me and my thinking and even my lethargic mindset concerning God. But everything was about to change.
opening pandora box
Felicia showed me a Bible text that threw my entire way of thinking about God in a complete downward spiral. As I listened to her explain some things, I needed something else to confirm what she just showed me and all that she was saying. I do remember feeling as she was talking, like the entire room, including me, was spinning. And it was spinning faster and faster the more she talked and explained. Until I finally stood up and walked out of the room.
I went into a room where I had some boxes in a closet that I hadn't opened in years. I remembered standing in front of those boxes and staring at them for a minute or so. Unsure if I really want to open Pandora box. But I really wanted to know the answer to this question Felicia presented to me. I was ready to set aside all my biases, personal perspectives, opinions, and what I've been taught to know about God.
At this point, I felt like everything was moving in super-slow speed. But I finally went through one or two boxes before I found my Bible. I headed back into the room where Felicia was patiently waiting. And I turned to the Scripture she just showed me. And what I read turned my world upside down. I rushed back to the closet where the boxes were and pulled out maybe four or more different versions of Bibles. I brought them back into the room where Felicia was and opened all of them to that same Scripture. Every version I had, including all different versions Felicia had matched. EXCEPT for this one version that I spent the buck of my Christian faith studying from. I was torn. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Here was the evidence God probably was waiting for the right time and for the longest time to show me. The perfect moment for me that He knew would break the camel's back that would lead to the one turning point He wanted for me. The one thing He knew that would push me over, force me to make the final turn, to take that leap of faith.
This event forced me to have a heart-to-heart conversation with this God that I wasn't so sure about but was willing to make a deal with Him. I can remember clearly saying this to Him.
Now, I strongly don't recommend that kind of prayer unless you fully understand what you are praying for. Because I did not understand what I was really was praying for. Because the very next day, when I needed to quote a Scripture I had probably quoted a million times before. I drew a blank. For a week, every time something came up where I had to quote a Scripture. Scriptures I was well familiar with. I drew a blank. So, for the first time, I shared with Felicia the deal I made with God after my conversation with her about God's name. She looked at me with her eyes stretched and with this stern look on her face. She didn't had to say anything because I was already thinking it. So, I said to her, yea I think God has done it. I really cannot remember any Scriptures.
And that was the beginning of a new journey for me in searching for God with all my heart. And boy, did He let Himself be found.
When your enemy circumvents the ways of God to deal with you treacherously, we should not be surprised or taken aback by such behavior or the schemes the devil uses (Ephesians 6:11). Even when such behavior is exhibited or done in the name of the LORD by some Christians.
Religious leaders did it to Jesus, God’s perfect and righteous Son. And they did it to such honorable men like the Prophet Jeremiah. On occasions when Jeremiah spoke, “thus says the LORD,” men, leaders of God’s people said in an effort to shut the mouth of Jeremiah and to win the support of others in their respective community, “come and let us devise plans against Jeremiah….” (This can be achieved not only by one’s words and deeds but also by thinking such things in one’s own heart concerning an authorized representative of God). “Come on and let us strike at him with our tongue, and let us give no heed to any of his words” (Jeremiah 18:18). (Oh, what a dangerous act on the part of these leaders).
The leaders of Judah that presided over the people of Israel committed high treason, a coup d’etat, by attempting to usurp the discipliner that God had established in its proper place as an authorized representative of His mandate. (Compare to Jeremiah 1:5; 18:18).
God responded to men’s treaSonous offenses
How did God respond to Jeremiah concerning these men's treasonous offenses? First, God said to Jeremiah to not give heed or any attention to these liars, these whitewash vipers. (Compare to Matthew 23:26-28). In other words, there was no need to debate with these men about the validation of Jeremiah’s appointment or position or status on God’s behalf. For God had already qualified and vetted Jeremiah in the absence of men. (Compare to Jeremiah chapter 1).
Despite this, these so-called leaders had mounted themself up against Jeremiah and Jeremiah was well aware of their campaign against him. Jeremiah said concerning them. “… They have dug a pit for me….” (Jeremiah 18:20) Yet, in spite of their animalistic behavior, Jeremiah speaks on the behalf of these men to keep God from displaying His rage against them.
But just like any other human, Jeremiah still wanted divine justice concerning the unrighteous acts of these men. In fact, Jeremiah demanded it from the LORD as we read Jeremiah’s words at Jeremiah chapter 18, verses 21 through 23. But in that moment, Jeremiah had forgotten that God had already answered Jeremiah’s prayer request concerning these unruly men a few chapters earlier when God spoke of this nation and its inhabitants' coming judgment. Their judgment for their continuously moving backward instead of toward what God was doing and who He was doing it through. For their continuous indulgence in sin. For their abandonment of the God of their forefathers in order to become a slave to other false gods, false religion, false concepts, false ideologies, and false doctrines. For their following false leaders and men. For their lack of repentance. (See Jeremiah 15:1-14).
We have to be mindful that with God, there are always conditions or stipulations involved to fully benefit from the blessings of God and to inherit the right to represent God as an authorized representative, be it as an apostle, prophet, pastor, Bible teacher, or evangelist. There are standards one must obtain and adhere to, to be approved by God for such roles. (Compare to Luke 12:48). These roles are not given to any and everyone in the Body of Christ just because they exist. God personally appoints men and women in these roles as HE SEES FIT AND DESIRE. (Compare to 1 Corinthians 12:11, 18, 24).
Therefore, concerning the behavior (and even hidden motives) these leaders had toward Jeremiah, God's appointment of Jeremiah as His prophet was still valid. God said to Jeremiah, “you will become My spokesman” (Jeremiah 15:19). Again, God confirms Jeremiah’s appointment and reminds Jeremiah who he is in Christ. Then God said this. Concerning all the treacherous leaders that had committed divine treason, “they for their part may turn to you….” (Jeremiah 15:19)
God is saying here to Jeremiah that despite the evil plotting of these men. Despite their wicked tongue that speaks against Jeremiah. These leaders will still have to seek the counsel, guidance, and direction of Jeremiah to know the plans, the intent, and the heart of God. There was no way around this because Jeremiah was God’s chosen vessel. These leaders can do all the plotting in the world and tell secrets and lies concerning Jeremiah that reach all the way to the top of a mountain. But Jeremiah was and still is God’s man – His anointed.
But this is the best part. As we said, God said to Jeremiah that these wicked men will have to come to Jeremiah for answers or solutions concerning what exactly God is doing. But Jeremiah will never have to turn to them, to these same men for counsel, support, or Godly direction (Jeremiah 15:19). Wooooo! My God!! Now that’s justice in that one single act alone. Let me quote what God said to Jeremiah. “… But as for you, you must not turn to them.” I mean what really do these evil leaders have to offer Jeremiah? Lies. Misdirection. Discord. And more lies.
To put the nail in the coffin. God said this concerning Jeremiah. That he will be a “fortified wall of bronze” for the people. Yet, the people will fight against him but they will not prevail over him. For in every situation Jeremiah finds himself with these wicked men, God will personally come down and see about Jeremiah to rescue and deliver Him (Jeremiah 15:20-21). What a good, good Father?
How does this benefit us today
This blessing and divine protection from God just does not extend only to Jeremiah. This is for God’s chosen vessels, His remnant today who all are experiencing “devise plans against” them; whom all are feeling the ill efforts of the strike of evil tongues against them by other leaders. This is for all of God’s anointed vessels whose counsel, warnings, and guidance that the masses think they can simply ignore (Jeremiah 18:18). God will eventually turn His backside and not His face to the people and its leaders (Jeremiah 18:17). And when He does, like the potter at the potter’s wheel, God will deal with these treacherous leaders according to His hand. Whether that be uprooting, pulling down, or destroying whoever refuses to repent and turn from their rebellious ways and turn back to the LORD and those He has chosen as His authorized representation. (Compare to James 5:16; Matthew 5:23-24; Jeremiah 18:6-8). But for those who do repent, He will restore and build up (Jeremiah 18:9).
Repent! For the hour is near.
Changing of the guard
Hezekiah reigned over Jerusalem for 29 years. During that time frame, “he did what was right in the sight of the LORD (2 Chronicles 29:12). He established many different reforms throughout the land and among God’s people (2 Chronicles 29:4-5, 10, 16, 18-19, 35-36). He reestablished the Levities in their proper place and cleansed the house of the LORD. He reinstituted the Passover “… according to the law of Moses the man of God” (2 Chronicles 30:13-20). As a result of Hezekiah’s actions and leadership, which came from a pure place and a desire to please God, a true revival broke out among God’s people (2 Chronicles 30:21-23).
But Hezekiah did not just stop there. He continued reforms throughout the land and among God’s people by destroying all forms of idol worship that God Himself did not establish among His people. Any practices or traditions that were man made, he destroyed (2 Chronicles 31). Hezekiah did what was good, and right, and true before the LORD his God. And it was because of this that he prospered and was given divine protection against such strongholds as Sennacherib, the king of Assyria. When this king and his mighty, fearless men came up against Hezekiah and his people with their threats and intimidating actions, Hezekiah did not shrink back out of fear nor did he compromise. Instead, he partnered with the prophet Isaiah and put his complete trust in the LORD, and seek Him out through prayer for direction and protection. In response to this faithful and pure prayer, God responded and Hezekiah and the people of God were saved by the hands of the LORD (2 Chronicles 32:9-23).
The changing of the guarD
After Hezekiah fell asleep in death, Manasseh succeeded him as king. And he reigned for 55 years and did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. All the idol worship, customs, practices, and traditions his father Hezekiel had torn down, he rebuilt (2 Chronicles 33:3-9).
God personally took matters into His own hands and spoke to Manasseh and His people but they refuse to listen (2 Chronicles 33:10). Therefore, the LORD their God lifted His hand and removed His divine protection from over His nation. And as a result, Assyria returned to seek their revenge against the nation and against God’s people. And because God’s leaders and the people that followed them had become corrupted. They no longer heed the warnings and the counsel of the LORD, their enemy was allowed to come in and defeat and capture them.
The Assyrians captured Manasseh with hooks and bound him with chains and took him to Babylon to serve them as their slave. After his defeat, then Manasseh humbled himself greatly before the LORD (2 Chronicles 33:10-12).
Now, this is the distinction between God and His people.
We the people, if we were in God’s shoes having to deal with Manasseh and all the offenses that he had caused. After Manasseh found himself in a situation that he could not control or change, he then reaches out for help to get him out of his own mess. All of us would quickly turn our backs on Manasseh. Recalling ALL the problems Manasseh had caused and the offenses he had done to us. We would literally throw him under the bus and leave him in want. For many of us are guilty of doing this to people who keep messing up; who offends us; to those who we do not agree with; toward someone we do not get along with; against someone who has hurt or disappoint us; to people who our spouse or friend or family member don’t like; or based on someone’s else word about a person without verifying if the facts are true or not. We dismiss people for almost anything and over everything. And yet, God is calling each one of us to act according to His image, His likeness (Genesis 1:26-27).
god’s responses to manasseh’s change of heart
So how did God respond to Manasseh after he finally humbles himself and honestly seeks God for help? Did God turn His back on Manasseh; abandon Manasseh; was unwilling to forgive; or point His finger and say something like, ‘you should have done XYZ when I said….?’
Verse 13 of Chapter 33 of Chronicles said when Manasseh prayed to God for help, God was moved by Manasseh’s heartfelt prayer and heard Manasseh’s supplication. Now, remember, at this point, Manasseh is in Babylon, chained up as a slave, serving the Babylonians. But when Manasseh genuinely cried out to the LORD with a pure heart. Then the LORD heard him and somehow freed Manasseh from the Babylonians and returned him to his homeland. And from this point forward, Manasseh had a turning point. For the Scriptures said, “Manasseh knew that the LORD was God. He removed the foreign gods and the idols from the house of the LORD, and the altars he had built. And replaced these with altars to the LORD God (2 Chronicles 33:13-16).
Now, Manasseh had changed but the people did not. For they still sacrificed in the high places (2 Chronicles 33:17). But Manasseh, because he had a real encounter with the LORD and humble himself before the LORD, he spent the remaining of his days serving the LORD (2 Chronicles 33:18).
What lesson we can learn
There is so much we can learn from the session of Hezekiah to Manasseh. There are so many different directions I can take here. But I will say this concerning these two kings and the changing of the guard. The Scriptures reflected that Hezekiah was faithful in his service, duty, assignment, and allegiance to God. He never swayed. He had an issue with pride but humbled himself and quickly made his wrong a right with God. Now, we will have to assume that Hezekiah passed down his moral convictions onto Manasseh. And yet, Manasseh did not initially stay on the path his father set. One man did what was right in God’s sight, while the other did what was evil.
We can teach our children to have high standards and our moral convictions of how to live right, and holy, and just, and righteous. And we can truly live what we preach but there is still no guarantee our children will follow the path we carved out and set for them. For the kings in First and Second Chronicles shows us both sides of the coin. Good kings who raised bad successors and bad kings who produced great and justly, God-fearing kings.
Considering this, as parents, what we can pray is that each one of our children, whether good or bad, will have an encounter with God just like Manasseh. An encounter that will turn their world upside down to the point they too will humble themselves greatly before the LORD. And they too will be led to entreat God with a humble heart for His help. And God too will hear their cries and bring them back home to come to know the LORD is God. Resulting in them tearing up or tearing down all their personal idols, and lustful mindset and behaviors, as well as the destruction of habits, traditions, and culture acceptance and political correctness of this world. And they will make their peace with God and serve Him throughout the remaining of their days. Amen and Amen.
The Nicodemus syndromE
The hardest thing for me to come to grips with is one experience of Jesus that directly impacts my life. Now, I'm not trying to elevate my ego, because I do acknowledge, at times, I do have an ego - for I'm human. So, in this instance, I am just being transparent here.
One thing I had to accept about Jesus' ministry is that when taking into consideration the entire population during his era; only a hand full of people actually received his message. The masses and that is including people he grew up with, loved, family, and even childhood friends, eventually rejected him after he fully stepped into his ministry; and clearly identified himself as the Messiah - the Son of God. In fact, the masses participated in persecuting Jesus and joined in the shouts of praise - "crucify him!"
But what is more interesting to me about the people surrounding Jesus is that many had what I like to call the "Nicodemus syndrome". Nicodemus as we know was a man of the elite class. A prominent member of the Sandedrin, the Jewish supreme court, as well as a part of the religious sect the Pharisees and a renowned Bible teacher. When he first encountered Jesus in his ministry, he was taken aback by Jesus - his ministry, his knowledge and understanding of the Scriptures, the power and authority he carried, and his whole persona. But Nicodemus found himself in a catch-22. He longed for regular interaction with Jesus, but he was a man of status. He loved his connection and the approval of man. Therefore, he could not dare be seen regularly interacting, let alone, gaining knowledge and understanding from an esteemed and a good man as Jesus. He would lose his position among his peers, relationships, friends, his social rank if he went public that he supported and agreed with Jesus' ministry. So, to satisfy his thirst, what did he do? He visited Jesus under the cover of night where no one would know about his interaction with Jesus. Now, the Scripture only alludes to one account of Nicodemus visiting Jesus at night. But I'm confident Nicodemus often visited Jesus under the darkness of night. I just cannot imagine anyone can have one interaction with Jesus and be satisfied. You are prone to keep going back for more. That's my opinion.
Now, why do I bring this up? Because I believe that most people are like Nicodemus. When they encounter real men and women of God, they are taken aback by these individuals. But like Nicodemus, people don't want to be seen with such clean, moral, and spiritual individuals. This would strain their reputation, their friends' status with others, and they fear being rejected by accepting true servants of God. So, they opt to form social ties with these individuals under the secrecy of social media platforms like Facebook. Constantly visiting these men and women of God's content to get their appetite, fill by what is good, righteous, knowledgeable, and holy – as Nicodemus did concerning Jesus.
What is interesting about Nicodemus' story is we do not know what Nicodemus' true status became after he fell asleep in death because the Scriptures do not reflect whether Nicodemus fully received Christ or not. But Nicodemus longed to benefit from what Jesus had to offer. He wanted more insight into the wisdom and knowledge that Jesus possessed. Nicodemus wanted to have his cake and eat it too. But as we know, that is not quite how life works. Jesus puts it this way. "But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:33).
We often deny ourselves the privilege of experiencing what is good and righteous and moral and holy in order to maintain the position and status, we have with people who cannot improve our lot in life nor guarantee us life.
So, coming to understand this, I should rest in the fact that I am in good company with Christ when the masses choose not receive me. (Compare to John 1:11; Psalm 27:10; John 15:18). Where I am from; I grew up, if you want to say – popular and well-liked. Because of this childhood experience, one of the first major hurdle I had to master and to learn to overcome was being accepted and being well-liked by the masses. For when I made the conscious decision to go all in and fully live for Christ and to live by the model and moral standard he set for all of mankind. At the time, I really did not account for the blatant rejection I would encounter for choosing to live a holy and righteous life. (Compare to John 10:16). Nowadays, I expect it and am used to it. But for a long time that was a hard pill for me to swallow and overcome.
The point is, the fear of man can truly lay a snare if you let it (Proverbs 29:25). But freedom from the fear of man is a blessing. (Compare to 2 Corinthians 3:17; 1 Peter 2:16; Romans 6:18).
Many families are repeating the same tragic story of Joseph.
But Joseph’s story does not leave us hopeless. Feeling that there is never the possibility of reconciliation in broken family life. We must remember. God is in the business of reconciliation. (See 2 Corinthians 5:18-20).
However, it is hard to believe that this is a possibility, especially in the case of Joseph’s family with their long laundry list of hurts and offenses listed above. There will seem that there is no hope for Joseph and his family to mend their wounds between one another. Yet along, forgiving a family member for their deception and betrayal. As you read the story of Joseph’s life in the Bible. It would certainly appear, in the way God had written Joseph’s story for us that Joseph would be justified if he chooses not to forgive his family, especially his brothers for all they did and allow to happen to him. For Joseph is the innocent victim in this Kardashians-like family affair. Certainly, God would not hold it against Joseph, if Joseph chose to leave things as they were and moved on without making any efforts to reconcile his family. For the destruction of his family’s life that he personally experienced was the fault of his father and his brothers. Therefore, it is understanding if no healing or mending of wounds takes place in this family, right? It’s just another tragic family situation and life goes on, right?
Well, God does not leave it there. Despite the tragic plight of Joseph due to his own family member’s flaws, destructive, and unrighteous behaviors, Joseph’s story has a beautiful ending that we all can benefit from. An ending that can change any families’ situation if all parties within a family play out their part as did Joseph and his family.
In dealing with my own emotions – feelings of betrayal, plotting, lack of support, jealousy, envy, lies, deception, mistreatment, hurt, etc. I could easily position myself in the same position as Joseph, and justify my emotions, and call it a day. But God has a story He wants all of us, including me to get, in Joseph’s story, which God has been pointing out and dealing with me concerning for almost a week now. Well, to be honest, maybe a few years, but particularly this week.
This will be the ideal place to share a few of the things God has been pointing out to me in my journey of STILL learning to forgive and an attempt to restore relationships when you have been betrayed by members you should be able to trust.
God is the god of reconciliatioN
Reconciliation is a challenging word to pronounce if you are seeing it for the first time. Rec·on·cil·i·a·tion. I still get tongue-tied when pronouncing this word with all those syllables. But yet, when we look up the synonyms of this six-syllable word in the thesaurus, the alternative words are simple terms – peace, truce, understanding, resolution, reunion, agreement, settlement, compromise – to name a few.
For true reconciliation to take place in any situation, there must be peace, truce, understanding, resolution, reunion, agreement, settlement, and compromise displayed on both sides. By the one who causes the offense and the one who was offended. True reconciliation cannot be one-sided. And Joseph, the innocent victim in his family, as well as his brothers, displays the perfect example of what true reconciliation should look like by those who were wrongfully offended and the ones who cause the offense.
So, we need to pick up at Genesis chapter 37, starting at verse 18, where all of Joseph's siblings plot to first murder Joseph, but instead, sold him into slavery to the Ishmaelites. Can you imagine all the different emotions Joseph felt at that moment? To have spent a lifetime of dealing with ill feelings and mistreatment by his siblings, to finally this. Being sold by his brothers for twenty shekels of silver.
We have remembered, at the time of this event in Joseph's life, he was still a teen, not quite a man yet, when his brothers did this reprehensible act toward him. (See Genesis 37:2). Despite the hardship of his life coming up – caused by his siblings, Joseph now was taken away from the only place he knew and love. For the next several years, Joseph will have to endure even more hardships, disappointments, uncertainties, life-threatening situations, hopelessness, etc., due to the unrighteous, deceptive, and lying acts of his brothers.
But God is a God of justice. Not only the truth will eventually come out about Joseph’s brother’s behaviors. But this family will eventually own up to each of their personal mistakes, resulting in forgiveness, and reconciling what seems to be irreconcilable.
After about 13 years in prison and living a life as a slave, eventually, with God’s guidance, Joseph is recognized by Egypt's ruler, Pharaoh, who promotes Joseph over his house and makes Joseph the second most powerful man in Egypt under Pharaoh (Genesis 41:38-46). Within Joseph's first several years, he prepared Egypt for hard times that were about to hit the world based on a warning dream God had given Pharaoh that Joseph was privileged to interpret (Genesis 41:1-49). And just as God showed him in a dream, the entire world experienced a famine. The food shortage was so bad that it began to affect neighboring cities and countries, which forced Joseph’s brothers to go out to Egypt, in search of food for their family.
Now, of course, Joseph’s brothers had no idea what has become of their brother Joseph. But time has done something to all of them.
Upon arriving in Egypt to purchase food, Joseph’s brothers find themselves standing and bowing themselves before Joseph. For Joseph is now the ruler of Egypt (Genesis 42:5-6). Now, we must stop right there for a second to reflect. Because remember, just a few years earlier, Joseph shared two dreams he had with his brothers (Genesis 37:5-11). In one of the dreams, he described that his sheaf rose and stood erect, and his brothers’ sheaves gathered around his and bowed down to his sheaf. While in his second dream the sun, moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to Joseph.
Now, at a very young age, Joseph was showing signs that he had a special gift of receiving special and significant dreams from God. But instead of his older brothers acknowledging this special gift in Joseph. Encouraging and supporting Joseph to grow in this special gift of his. They hated Joseph even more and their jealousy grew more so because of Joseph's special abilities.
But now, Joseph’s brothers find themselves actually living out, fulfilling the dream that Joseph had some years earlier. All eleven of his brothers are now standing before him bowing down to Joseph because of his authority and power as ruler in Egypt.
Will they recognize one another? And how will they respond? How will Joseph respond? Resentful? Will he use his power and authority to retaliate?
Initially, Joseph’s brother did not recognize Joseph. But Joseph recognized them. And when he recognized his brothers, he initially had two reactions or what we like to call today – triggers. His first natural reaction was angry. The Scriptures said, “when Joseph saw his brothers he recognized them, but he disguised himself to them and spoke to them harshly (Genesis 42:7). Then he remembered the two dreams he had and shared with his brothers a few years earlier. And then Joseph accused them of being spies (Genesis 42:9-20).
In the back and forth debate between Joseph and his brothers who still did not recognize him, his brothers refer to themselves as “honest men” as they were trying to prove to Joseph they were not spies (Genesis 42:11). I can only imagine how much more resentful Joseph must have felt to hear his brothers used that phrase, “honest men,” to describe themselves. For this certainly have not been the case in the way they all have dealt with their brother Joseph.
As you read this story, especially if this is your first time reading it. You have to wonder, what will Joseph do to his brothers? Will he get revenge? Will he sell them all into slavery? What will he do?
At some point, Joseph must have wanted to know if his brothers were the same or have they changed? Had they really become honest men as they were claiming? Well, one thing was for sure. Joseph feared God and he did not want to do anything contrary to what God expected of him, no matter how he felt about his brothers at this point (Genesis 42:18). So, he decided to test his brothers’ honesty by giving ten of his brothers a task to complete, while one brother remained in Egypt in prison until the other brothers returned with his youngest brother Benjamin, whom Joseph had never met.
Throughout this conversation with his brothers, who still did not recognize Joseph, it was taking an emotional toll on him. Although he put up a good front before them. At some point, his strained interaction with his brothers became too emotionally heavy that Joseph had to step away for a moment to cry (Genesis 42:24).
This is how it can be for those God is using in an effort to reconcile family relations. In order to try to repair what is broken among family members. Often time, God would choose to use the person who was not at fault – the victim in a family situation to be His long ranger to fix what they did not break. And that can be very taxing and vexing on that individual. Because you are having to deal with people who
The individual that God decides to use to mend and reconcile a family have to deal with the above, along with with people's attitudes, biases, prejudices, distorted perspective, personal brokenness, and unwilling spirits.
There are far too many Josephs in many families who are trying to carry the weight of mending their families within a family who thinks of nobody but themselves and their own little corner while pointing their finger across the room at another family member for a problem they too often created themselves one way or another. As you read this Biblical account, this could be Joseph’s mentality, as well as yours. This possibly was Joseph's disposition toward his family. But Joseph and his brothers did something interesting that is a great lesson for all of us.
Joseph’s family restoreD
At this point, Joseph had his brother Simeon in prison. Their father Jacob refuses to allow the other 10 sons to return with their youngest brother Benjamin to Egypt to retrieve Simeon. I can only imagine the emotional roller coaster ride Joseph must have felt about it all and not knowing what to really expect from his brothers, and what he might really want from them after all they did to him.
However, the famine in the land had gotten so severe that Jacob, their father, eventually had no choice but to send his 10 sons back along with the youngest Benjamin, in order to retrieve more food for the entire family. Upon their arrival in Egypt, the 10 sons of Jacob and the youngest, Benjamin, Joseph's mother’s son, all stood and bowed before him. This interaction for Joseph was too emotional that again, he had to find a private place to hide so he could weep privately. But still, Joseph was unsure whether his brothers have really changed from the treacherous men he knew them as before. So, Joseph kept testing them to see if they were any true changes in his brothers. (See Genesis chapters 42 through 44). And there was one consistent evidence that kept coming up concerning Joseph’s brothers that were evident to Joseph.
So, they acknowledge their part, their wrong that they all did to their brother unjustly. They were guilty for their lies, their deceptions, their hatred, their murmuring, their jealously, etc. And in this instance, they finally owned up to it by saying, “… we are guilty concerning our brother….” When Joseph heard those words from his brother, - the admission of their guilt through an interpreter (Genesis 42:21). Can you imagine the emotional impact that had on Joseph to hear his brothers admit they were wrong, and they should have not done the things they did to him? The Scriptures said, upon Joseph overhearing this, he wept and there had to be some feeling of vindication with those tears as well (Genesis 42:24). For a sincere acknowledgment of wrongdoing, followed by an apology is the beginning of true reconciliation in any situation.
Judah, even said to Joseph, upon their return to Egypt with Benjamin, “… what can we say… how can we justify ourselves…. God has found out the iniquity of your servants….
What a transformation! They were no longer trying to hide behind lies, cover up, or deceit. They were being honest about their past and the present accusations against them. They were not covering up for one another, but they were being transparent, honest, and protective of one another in a righteous way. They have truly learned from their mistakes and their bad dealings with their brother Joseph. They have grieved over what they had done to him and truly wanted to repent and make their wrong a right if there was a way to do so. They saw and understood the damage their unjust behavior had caused Joseph and their entire family. They all were guilty, and they wanted to come clean and make their wrongs right.
It seems now, Jacob’s sons were finally being accountable for one another. Looking out for one another. Protecting one another. Putting one’s life on the line for the other. Something they were not willing to do when coming up with Joseph who they envy at that time.
What were the results? Joseph finally fell before all his brothers and wept. He revealed his true identity to them all. His brothers at first were shocked by this revelation. But Joseph, the victim of his brothers’ hatred and jealousy, called all his brothers closer and told them to not grieve, or be angry with themselves any longer because of what all they had done to him. For Joseph says God’s hand was in it all - for God had something greater He needed to accomplish through Joseph for the sake of the survival of their family. In order to bring them all to this day. Not only a day where their entire family can be restored. But Joseph needed to go ahead of his family into Egypt in order to prepare a place for his family and to be positioned by God so that his entire household can be spared in this hour from one of the greatest famines that ever hit the land. Joseph and his family were reconciled, restored, and saved all in the same year at the hands of God, the Restorer, and Reconciler of families. (Compare to 2 Corinthians 5:17-21).
God's word is for the edification, exhortation, and consolation; for teaching, reproving, correcting, and training so that every Christian is equipped for the work of service, to build up the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 14:3; 2 Timothy 3:16; Ephesians 4:12).