With the destruction from Hurricanes Irma and Harvey fresh in our minds, few would doubt the sheer force of storm driven wind and rain. And we’ve all seen images of earthquakes and other natural disasters.
Man made destruction can be just as powerful: war torn countries, the effects of suicide bombers and terrorism, and our own twin towers. Now another enemy threatens with missile launches and nuclear tests.
But are any of those the most powerful force in the world? And, if not, what is?
Another Monday morning. Jeannie would have to pray. She and Sue were the only two women on a job that was hard enough without Sue’s constant antagonism. It was made worse by the fact that, as far as Jeannie knew, she had never done anything to warrant her hatred.
The cheating began just a few months into their marriage. Mary had cried, yelled, spied on him, and threatened to leave. Each time Joe would tell her he was sorry and promise to break off the affair. But before long, she’d overhear a conversation, someone would call and hang up, or Joe would stay out all night and she’d know.
Karen’s husband worked hard. He came home every night. He paid the bills. But week-ends were a nightmare. Before the sun set on Friday, Bill was well into a bottle of bourbon and the more he drank, the angrier he got. More than once he had pulled out his gun and waved it around, even pointing it at Karen.
Each workday Jeannie determined to be kind to Sue, in spite of her cursing and cheap shots. But there were days when she went home in tears and cried out to God for another job.
Then one day after a particularly angry outburst, Sue stopped and just stared at Jeannie. “What is wrong with you? Everyday you come back and treat me right no matter what I say or do!” What followed were tears, but this time they were Sue’s and not Jeannie’s, as she poured out a story of heartbreak and abuse. Eventually, she accepted an invitation to attend church with Jeannie where she found the grace to let God heal her heart. Continue reading →
The people who had come back enthusiastic and ready to rebuild the temple, had met some resistance and gradually quit doing God’s work and, instead, got busy with their own lives.
God used the prophets Haggai and Zechariah to stir and rebuke the people about their priorities. In Haggai 1, God said:
“‘Consider your ways! You have sown much, but harvest little; you eat, but there is not enough to be satisfied; you drink, but there is not enough to become drunk; you put on clothing, but no one is warm enough; and he who earns, earns wages to put into a purse with holes.’ Thus says the Lord God of Hosts, ‘Consider your ways! Go up to the mountain, bring wood and rebuild the temple, that I may be pleased with it and be glorified,’ says the Lord” (Hag. 1.5-8).
What about you? Do you need to consider your ways? Are your priorities God’s priorities? Have you gotten “too busy” to be concerned about the things of God? Do you feel like you work hard, but everything goes into a purse that is full of holes? Could God be using circumstances to get your attention?
Verse 7b says, “All my springs are in you.” In Acts 17.28 Paul said, “… in Him we live and move and have our being.” And James 1.17 says, “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above … ” (NASB).
God is the source of every talent, every ability, every blessing. Scripture tells us that He even blesses the unrighteous in many ways. The Puritans called it “common grace.” And yet, we are so easily puffed up and become proud of our achievements, our possessions, even, our children. We need to be careful to give God the glory that He and He alone is due!
Contentious and Angry
In verse 19, God again sees fit to warn us, ladies, that we can easily go from being a blessing to being a curse to our husbands and/or children.
“Better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and angry woman.”
Of course, we women are not the only ones who struggle with anger and it’s just as destructive when it’s you men.
Solomon has been king for some time and God had blessed him and the nation of Israel beyond imagination. Can you imagine a time in history when the blessings of God were so great that silver was accounted for nothing? And, in fact, the gold that Solomon acquired was measured in “talents.” A talent was 100 pounds and would probably be worth over $5,000,000.00 today.
And it wasn’t just the monetary blessings, God had blessed Solomon with great wisdom—so much so—that the Queen of Sheba traveled 1200 miles at a time when there were no jets, no trains, not even cars, only camels, horses and carts—just to see if it was true!
But then to see how the sinful nature of man can allow even the blessings of God to become a snare. Solomon began to accumulate wealth in a way that he had been forbidden to do. It’s not that it’s wrong to “save” or to have money in the bank, or even to have material goods. Remember, God gave Joseph the wisdom to set aside stores of food to last Egypt through 7 years of famine and enough to sell to people from other nations.
But when we quit relying on God and begin to rely on the “strength of horses” and how many “talents of gold” we have stored up, we are setting ourselves up for a fall. Today we may not rely on horses and we may or may not have much gold, but we can easily rely on our retirement plans, our 401Ks, the Social Security System or the government, when God wants us to rely on Him. He is to be our source and our trust is to be in Him, no matter what means He uses to meet our needs.
And what about much learning? Is there danger in education?
Even great wisdom, if it’s the world’s wisdom instead of God’s, can be a stumbling block. Romans 1 tells us:
“For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools” (vv. 20-22).
That is the state of much of our educational system today.
Once we begin to focus on things other than God, we can easily be drawn into greater and greater sin. In tomorrow’s reading we’ll see the downward spiral of sin in Solomon’s life.
Have you ever felt like the psalmist—so overwhelmed with problems that you felt like you were “up to your neck in them”? Here the psalmist was even falsely blamed for being the source of the problems. Tomorrow we will see that in spite of it all, the writer kept his eyes on God knowing that He would vindicate him in due time.
Verse 18, “A man devoid of understanding shakes hands in a pledge, and becomes surety for his friend.”
The word “understanding” is often used in Proverbs and means “the ability to process information.”
This verse is about “co-signing.” So we could paraphrase it, “A man without the ability to process information co-signs for a friend.”
That’s pretty clear, isn’t it?
Besides not being the wise thing for us as the co-signer, it is usually the wrong thing to do where the other person is concerned. There is often a reason they are unable to purchase something on their own: their age, their income, or past decisions, for example. Too many times we are getting in the way of God’s work in their lives and allowing them to get in over their heads.
There may be a few exceptions, but I have found they are few and far between.
In chapter 11 Jesus had performed the great miracle of raising Lazarus after he had been dead for four days. It caused some to believe and others to plot to kill him (11.45, 53). The same is true today. While God’s handiwork is everywhere, those who choose not to believe are not only not persuaded, but angry at the suggestion He is at work!
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Have you ever wondered, in the midst of some difficulty, “Is this a test?” Does God, actually, test His people and, if so, are tests punishments or something else? What does God do when we fail those tests?
As we continue the Genesis story, Joseph will be faced with a test. How would he respond to the brothers who thought about killing him before they sold him into slavery? And his brothers will face some tests of their own, including the fear that God was punishing them for what they did to Joseph and how he might retaliate.
If you’ve been following along in Genesis, you know that Joseph had been thrown into prison after he was falsely accused of sexual assault, as if being sold into slavery was not enough. While there, God gave him the interpretation of two men’s dreams. Joseph asks the one that was released to remember him and his plight, but he, apparently, never did.
Two years later Pharaoh had two disturbing dreams (Gen. 41):
8 In the morning his mind was troubled, so he sent for all the magicians and wise men of Egypt. Pharaoh told them his dreams, but no one could interpret them for him.
9 Then the chief cupbearer said to Pharaoh, “Today I am reminded of my shortcomings.10 Pharaoh was once angry with his servants, and he imprisoned me and the chief baker in the house of the captain of the guard.11 Each of us had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own.12 Now a young Hebrew was there with us, a servant of the captain of the guard. We told him our dreams, and he interpreted them for us, giving each man the interpretation of his dream.13 And things turned out exactly as he interpreted them to us: I was restored to my position, and the other man was impaled.”
14 So Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was quickly brought from the dungeon. When he had shaved and changed his clothes, he came before Pharaoh.
15 Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.”
16 “I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.”
God warned that seven years of abundance would be followed by seven years of famine. He, not only, revealed the interpretation to Joseph, but gave him so much wisdom that Pharaoh put him in charge of managing a program to prepare for the famine. His plan was so successful that people from surrounding areas came to buy grain, including Jacob’s brothers (Gen. 42).
You are spies!
6 Now Joseph was the governor of the land, the person who sold grain to all its people. So when Joseph’s brothers arrived, they bowed down to him with their faces to the ground.7 As soon as Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he pretended to be a stranger and spoke harshly to them. “Where do you come from?” he asked.
“From the land of Canaan,” they replied, “to buy food.”
8 Although Joseph recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him.9 Then he remembered his dreams about them and said to them, “You are spies! You have come to see where our land is unprotected.”
10 “No, my lord,” they answered. “Your servants have come to buy food.11 We are all the sons of one man. Your servants are honest men, not spies.”
12 “No!” he said to them. “You have come to see where our land is unprotected.”
13 But they replied, “Your servants were twelve brothers, the sons of one man, who lives in the land of Canaan. The youngest is now with our father, and one is no more.”
14 Joseph said to them, “It is just as I told you: You are spies!15 And this is how you will be tested …
I don’t know what was, actually, in Joseph’s heart when he first saw his brothers after so many years. The text says he remembered his dreams, but he, also, had to remember the hurt and the wrong they had done? He was faced with a test of sorts. How would he respond to the brothers who thought about killing him before they sold him into slavery.
His brothers would face the fear that God was punishing them for what they did to Joseph and, later, the fear of how Joseph might retaliate.
18 On the third day, Joseph said to them, “Do this and you will live, for I fear God:19 If you are honest men, let one of your brothers stay here in prison, while the rest of you go and take grain back for your starving households.20 But you must bring your youngest brother to me, so that your words may be verified and that you may not die.” This they proceeded to do.
21 They said to one another, “Surely we are being punished because of our brother. We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that’s why this distress has come on us.”
22 Reuben replied, “Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy? But you wouldn’t listen! Now we must give an accounting for his blood.”23 They did not realize that Joseph could understand them, since he was using an interpreter.
24 He turned away from them and began to weep, but then came back and spoke to them again. He had Simeon taken from them and bound before their eyes.
Back to Egypt
Time passed. Simeon was sitting in jail, probably wondering if anyone was coming back for him.
Jacob had not been willing to deal with the situation. The thought of losing Benjamin was too great for him, but his hand had been forced by continued famine.
God & Famine
God often uses famine and lack to move us or test us. Sometimes, because we have become too content in our comfort zones, fearing failure or change. Other times, there are selfish desires, hidden idolatries, or sinful patterns that need to be exposed and dealt with. There are, also, times when we may not know the strength and ability we have in Christ until it is tested. Continue reading →