Together, we serve
to know Christ
and to make Christ known
for the glory of God

30 March 2019

Almighty God, grant that we, who justly deserve to be punished for our sinful deeds, may in Your mercy and kindness be pardoned and restored; through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.

29 March 2019

Luke 20

One day as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple courts and proclaiming the good news, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, together with the elders, came up to him. ‘Tell us by what authority you are doing these things,’ they said. ‘Who gave you this authority?’
He replied, ‘I will also ask you a question. Tell me: John’s baptism – was it from heaven, or of human origin?’
They discussed it among themselves and said, ‘If we say, “From heaven,” he will ask, “Why didn’t you believe him?” But if we say, “Of human origin,” all the people will stone us, because they are persuaded that John was a prophet.’
So they answered, ‘We don’t know where it was from.’
Jesus said, ‘Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.’
The parable of the tenants
He went on to tell the people this parable: ‘A man planted a vineyard, rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time. 10 At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11 He sent another servant, but that one also they beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty-handed.12 He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out.
13 ‘Then the owner of the vineyard said, “What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.”
14 ‘But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. “This is the heir,” they said. “Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.” 15 So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.
‘What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? 16 He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.’
When the people heard this, they said, ‘God forbid!’
17 Jesus looked directly at them and asked, ‘Then what is the meaning of that which is written:
‘“The stone the builders rejected
    has become the cornerstone”?
18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.’
19 The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. But they were afraid of the people.
Paying taxes to Caesar
20 Keeping a close watch on him, they sent spies, who pretended to be sincere. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said, so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor. 21 So the spies questioned him: ‘Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. 22 Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?’
23 He saw through their duplicity and said to them, 24 ‘Show me a denarius. Whose image and inscription are on it?’
‘Caesar’s,’ they replied.
25 He said to them, ‘Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.’
26 They were unable to trap him in what he had said there in public. And astonished by his answer, they became silent.
The resurrection and marriage
27 Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question. 28 ‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 29 Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless. 30 The second 31 and then the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no children. 32 Finally, the woman died too. 33 Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?’
34 Jesus replied, ‘The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35 But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, 36 and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection. 37 But in the account of the burning bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord “the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”. 38 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.’
39 Some of the teachers of the law responded, ‘Well said, teacher!’ 40 And no one dared to ask him any more questions.
Whose son is the Messiah?
41 Then Jesus said to them, ‘Why is it said that the Messiah is the son of David?42 David himself declares in the Book of Psalms:
‘“The Lord said to my Lord:
    ‘Sit at my right hand
43 until I make your enemies
    a footstool for your feet.’”
44 David calls him “Lord.” How then can he be his son?’
Warning against the teachers of the law
45 While all the people were listening, Jesus said to his disciples, 46 ‘Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect in the market-places and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honour at banquets. 47 They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.’

Jesus Christ is a wonderful conundrum. He cannot simply be categorised and tamed. This is because He is totally unique. If He were simply the human descendent of David and only a political king, that would make Him more manageable/understandable and easier to keep at a distance. But He is not just a son. He is the Son. Of God. Seated at the right hand of the LORD- Yaweh-the Creator God (verse 42). He is not just a lord – like a respectable nobleman. No, He is the LORD (YHWH) – gloriously equal and One with the Father. (John 5:17-18; 8:58 & 10:30) We see Jesus as fully God and equal with the Father because He is revealed as seated ‘at the right hand of the Father’. Jesus completely fulfils all the Old Testament prophecies about the One whom God would send to save the world. Thus, we can only conclude that Jesus is God’s Messiah (Anointed King).

Modern Jews are still waiting for a political messiah, not realising that the Messiah of God (anointed King) has already come. N T Wright says, ‘This is how, in the events concerning Jesus of Nazareth, the God of Israel has become King of the whole world.’

One day every knee will bow to King Jesus, (Philippians 2:10-11) willingly or unwillingly and the enemies of King Jesus will become His ‘footstool’ (verse 43).

What is your opinion of Jesus? Your response to Him determines your eternal destiny.  

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for sending Your Son, the Lord Jesus to be crowned as King by dying on the cross to save His people. Please help us to accept His rule and Lordship over our lives. Amen.

28 March 2019

Luke 19

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, ‘Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.’ So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
All the people saw this and began to mutter, ‘He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.’
But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.’
Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.’
The parable of the ten minas
11 While they were listening to this, he went on to tell them a parable, because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once. 12 He said: ‘A man of noble birth went to a distant country to have himself appointed king and then to return. 13 So he called ten of his servants and gave them ten minas.[a “Put this money to work,” he said, “until I come back.”
14 ‘But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, “We don’t want this man to be our king.”
15 ‘He was made king, however, and returned home. Then he sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, in order to find out what they had gained with it.
16 ‘The first one came and said, “Sir, your mina has earned ten more.”
17 ‘“Well done, my good servant!” his master replied. “Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.”
18 ‘The second came and said, “Sir, your mina has earned five more.”
19 ‘His master answered, “You take charge of five cities.”
20 ‘Then another servant came and said, “Sir, here is your mina; I have kept it laid away in a piece of cloth. 21 I was afraid of you, because you are a hard man. You take out what you did not put in and reap what you did not sow.”
22 ‘His master replied, “I will judge you by your own words, you wicked servant! You knew, did you, that I am a hard man, taking out what I did not put in, and reaping what I did not sow? 23 Why then didn’t you put my money on deposit, so that when I came back, I could have collected it with interest?”
24 ‘Then he said to those standing by, “Take his mina away from him and give it to the one who has ten minas.”
25 ‘“Sir,” they said, “he already has ten!”
26 ‘He replied, “I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what they have will be taken away. 27 But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them – bring them here and kill them in front of me.”’
Jesus comes to Jerusalem as king
28 After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 30 ‘Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, “Why are you untying it?” say, “The Lord needs it.”’
32 Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, ‘Why are you untying the colt?’
34 They replied, ‘The Lord needs it.’
35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36 As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.
37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen:
38 ‘Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!’
‘Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’
39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples!’
40 ‘I tell you,’ he replied, ‘if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.’
41 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace – but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognise the time of God’s coming to you.’
Jesus at the temple
45 When Jesus entered the temple courts, he began to drive out those who were selling. 46 ‘It is written,’ he said to them, ‘“My house will be a house of prayer”; but you have made it “a den of robbers”.’
47 Every day he was teaching at the temple. But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him. 48 Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on his words.

In Luke 19 we see Jesus on the way to Jerusalem to die on the cross for the sins of the world. And yet we see Him taking time to save an individual. Yes, Jesus, the Son of God came to save the world (John 3:16), but God never forgets the individual. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is a personal God.

One short man, Zacchaeus, was a rich man that gave up his dignity by climbing a tree to see Jesus. As a tax collector Zacchaeus was basically a traitor to his own Jewish people and probably corrupt – hence his great wealth.

But Lord Jesus’ response to Zacchaeus is amazing; sovereign love and grace towards a wretched sinner. With divine knowledge, Jesus calls Zacchaeus by name and then eats with him – a covenant ritual. Jesus attracted criticism for His mercy toward Zacchaeus (verse 7), but He did not fear the opinions of men.

With Zacchaeus, the mercy and compassion of Jesus towards this rich sinner has caused me also to marvel and to question. Why does God set His love on unworthy people? Would Jesus love and accept me too even though I am an unworthy sinner? What do you think? Would Jesus have compassion on you too even if you know that you are unworthy and defiled? Zacchaeus answers forever the question whether God really wants and forgives unworthy sinners.

Zacchaeus responds to Jesus with genuine repentance and joyful devotion. He bankrupts himself to show his devotion and the redirection of his life toward worshipping the Messiah (verse 8).  Zacchaeus has found something more valuable than money (Matthew 13:44). We can learn much from this man and love Jesus more than our possessions. Jesus says that he who has been forgiven much, loves God much. (Luke 7:47)

We see the joy of Jesus when He says to Zacchaeus, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.’ (verse 9-10) Zacchaeus became a son of Abraham through his faith in Jesus and this faith was credited to him as righteousness. (Genesis 15:6)

Will you also please consider putting your faith in Jesus as your saviour and Lord?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for Your mercy that we can see so clearly through Your Son, Jesus. Please Help us to fully trust and follow Jesus. Your grace to us is overwhelming even though we don’t deserve it. You are very great! Amen.

27 March 2019

Exodus 3

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, ‘I will go over and see this strange sight – why the bush does not burn up.’
When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, ‘Moses! Moses!’
And Moses said, ‘Here I am.’
‘Do not come any closer,’ God said. ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.’ Then he said, ‘I am the God of your father,[a the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.’ At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
The Lord said, ‘I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey – the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.’
11 But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’
12 And God said, ‘I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.’
13 Moses said to God, ‘Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they ask me, “What is his name?” Then what shall I tell them?’
14 God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: “I am has sent me to you.”’
15 God also said to Moses, ‘Say to the Israelites, “The Lord, the God of your fathers – the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob – has sent me to you.”
‘This is my name for ever,
    the name you shall call me
    from generation to generation.
16 ‘Go, assemble the elders of Israel and say to them, “The Lord, the God of your fathers – the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – appeared to me and said: I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt. 17 And I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites – a land flowing with milk and honey.”
18 ‘The elders of Israel will listen to you. Then you and the elders are to go to the king of Egypt and say to him, “The Lord, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. Let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the Lordour God.” 19 But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless a mighty hand compels him. 20 So I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them. After that, he will let you go.
21 ‘And I will make the Egyptians favourably disposed towards this people, so that when you leave you will not go empty-handed. 22 Every woman is to ask her neighbour and any woman living in her house for articles of silver and gold and for clothing, which you will put on your sons and daughters. And so you will plunder the Egyptians.’

The Creator God, Yaweh, is a Holy and unique God. This living God speaks and acts. He keeps His promises and His covenant. Is it not amazing that the awesome Creator of the universe should come down and personally reveal Himself to Moses and then speak to him? And then God personally intervenes to save Israel with great power and mercy.  The Lord said, ‘I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering.  So I have come down to rescue them…’ (verse 7-8a)

The living God has not changed. He still sees, hears and cares. He still rescues. And He uses fallible people to fulfil His plans – like Moses – like us.

God brings redemption and deliverance to people trapped in slavery. And then He takes His favoured people to their own promised land. What gracious and fantastic God! Today, because of the work of His Son, God still has the means and passion to rescue anyone who listens to His word and responds to Him. Will you trust God? Will you listen and obey His word?

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for Your gracious involvement in our lives. Your faithfulness in saving us is amazing. Please help us to trust You and obey Your word.

26 March 2019

Exodus 2

Now a man of the tribe of Levi married a Levite woman, and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him.
Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the river-bank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her female slave to get it. She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. ‘This is one of the Hebrew babies,’ she said.
Then his sister asked Pharaoh’s daughter, ‘Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?’
‘Yes, go,’ she answered. So the girl went and got the baby’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, ‘Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.’ So the woman took the baby and nursed him. 10 When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, ‘I drew him out of the water.’
Moses flees to Midian
11 One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labour. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people. 12 Looking this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. 13 The next day he went out and saw two Hebrews fighting. He asked the one in the wrong, ‘Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?’
14 The man said, ‘Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?’ Then Moses was afraid and thought, ‘What I did must have become known.’
15 When Pharaoh heard of this, he tried to kill Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in Midian, where he sat down by a well. 16 Now a priest of Midian had seven daughters, and they came to draw water and fill the troughs to water their father’s flock. 17 Some shepherds came along and drove them away, but Moses got up and came to their rescue and watered their flock.
18 When the girls returned to Reuel their father, he asked them, ‘Why have you returned so early today?’
19 They answered, ‘An Egyptian rescued us from the shepherds. He even drew water for us and watered the flock.’
20 ‘And where is he?’ Reuel asked his daughters. ‘Why did you leave him? Invite him to have something to eat.’
21 Moses agreed to stay with the man, who gave his daughter Zipporah to Moses in marriage. 22 Zipporah gave birth to a son, and Moses named him Gershom, saying, ‘I have become a foreigner in a foreign land.’
23 During that long period, the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God. 24 God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. 25 So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.

God is a God who remembers His covenant promises to His people and is concerned about them (verse 25). He does what He says He will do and takes responsibility for saving His people. It is a wonderful to see the faithfulness and goodness of Yaweh in the Bible toward Israel. God remembers His covenant promises to Abraham. He has an innate goodness and integrity that makes His word stand and enables us to trust Him. If He does not forget Israel, He will not forget us. Everything seems so random and unpredictable in our society today: corrupt politics, crime, the suffering of the poor and all manner of sin abounds. Yet God is faithful – and His sovereign mercy and power is unchanging.

Some people might acknowledge that God exists, but seriously doubt His involvement in human affairs. Yet in chapter 2 of Exodus we see how God sovereignly intervenes in human history and raises up and protects Moses from birth as the means of salvation for Israel.  Many centuries later God would again raise up the new Moses from birth, Jesus, as Saviour of the world. (Deuteronomy 18:15)

Do you see the faithfulness of God toward you? Do you perceive the actions of His sovereign mercy in your life? Let us not lose hope and become indifferent toward Him.

This is wisdom: ‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.’ Proverbs 3:5-6

Prayer: Heavenly Father, You are wonderfully faithful. Please help us to see Your goodness to us in Christ and to trust You with all our hearts.

25 March 2019

Exodus 1

These are the names of the sons of Israel who went to Egypt with Jacob, each with his family: Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah; Issachar, Zebulun and Benjamin; Dan and Naphtali; Gad and Asher. The descendants of Jacob numbered seventy[a in all; Joseph was already in Egypt.
Now Joseph and all his brothers and all that generation died, but the Israelites were exceedingly fruitful; they multiplied greatly, increased in numbers and became so numerous that the land was filled with them.
Then a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt. ‘Look,’ he said to his people, ‘the Israelites have become far too numerous for us. 10 Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.’
11 So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labour, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh. 12 But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites 13 and worked them ruthlessly. 14 They made their lives bitter with harsh labour in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their harsh labour, the Egyptians worked them ruthlessly.
15 The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah, 16 ‘When you are helping the Hebrew women during childbirth on the delivery stool, if you see that the baby is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.’ 17 The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live. 18 Then the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and asked them, ‘Why have you done this? Why have you let the boys live?’
19 The midwives answered Pharaoh, ‘Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.’
20 So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. 21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.
22 Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: ‘Every Hebrew boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.’

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Our duty as followers of Jesus in this world is to fear God more than the king (government) or the culture of selfish convenience. In God’s word we are instructed to honour the king (1 Peter 2:17). But what do we do when the instructions of the king are opposed to the word of God? For example, in Exodus 1, the king gives instructions to the midwives to kill all baby boys. This is clearly against God’s moral law which forbids murder (Exodus 20:13). The midwives feared God more than the king, and deliberately and bravely defied the king and let the babies live.

In South Africa the killing of babies in the womb has been legal since 1996 with abortion on demand up to 20 weeks of pregnancy. This has lead to genocide. A full-term pregnancy is about 39 weeks, although a premature baby can survive after 23 weeks. (I personally survived being born shortly after 26 weeks pregnancy.) A baby in the womb is a person, not just a foetus or something sub-human. The fact is that a human baby’s heart starts to beat at just 3 weeks – which is evidence of God-given life.

Is this an uncomfortable subject? Yes. But we must take a stand for the things that please or anger God.

See how God honoured and rewarded those midwives who feared Him and protected Israel. He gave them their own families with children – because children are a blessing from the Lord (Psalm 127:3). Isn’t it interesting that we know the names of these two brave women (Shiphrah and Puah)? God honours those who honour Him (1 Samuel 2:30).

Heavenly Father, please give us the courage to speak up and to fight for the rights of unborn humans who are created in Your image. Thank You that we are fearfully and wonderfully made.

23 March 2019

Philippians 4:10-23

I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
14 Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. 15 Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; 16 for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need. 17 Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account. 18 I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. 19 And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.
20 To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Final greetings
21 Greet all God’s people in Christ Jesus. The brothers and sisters who are with me send greetings. 22 All God’s people here send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household.
23 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.

Prayer: We beseech You, Almighty God, look on the heartfelt desires of Your servants, and stretch forth the right hand of Your power to be our defence against all our enemies; through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

22 March 2019

Luke 18

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: ‘In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, “Grant me justice against my adversary.”
‘For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, “Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!”’
And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?’
The parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10 ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: “God, I thank you that I am not like other people – robbers, evildoers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.”
13 ‘But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
14 ‘I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.’
The little children and Jesus
15 People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’
The rich and the kingdom of God
18 A certain ruler asked him, ‘Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’
19 ‘Why do you call me good?’ Jesus answered. ‘No one is good – except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: “You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honour your father and mother.”’
21 ‘All these I have kept since I was a boy,’ he said.
22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, ‘You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’
23 When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. 24 Jesus looked at him and said, ‘How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! 25 Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’
26 Those who heard this asked, ‘Who then can be saved?’
27 Jesus replied, ‘What is impossible with man is possible with God.’
28 Peter said to him, ‘We have left all we had to follow you!’
29 ‘Truly I tell you,’ Jesus said to them, ‘no one who has left home or wife or brothers or sisters or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God 30 will fail to receive many times as much in this age, and in the age to come eternal life.’
Jesus predicts his death a third time
31 Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, ‘We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled.32 He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him; 33 they will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.’
34 The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about.
A blind beggar receives his sight
35 As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36 When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. 37 They told him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.’
38 He called out, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’
39 Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’
40 Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, 41 ‘What do you want me to do for you?’
‘Lord, I want to see,’ he replied.
42 Jesus said to him, ‘Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.’43 Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.

‘Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.’ Luke 18:1

‘God have mercy on me, a sinner. Luke 18:13b

This year, as a church, we have been challenged to grow deeper in prayer. Both the above examples can help us.

To persist in prayer does not mean repetitive or long prayer sessions (Matthew 6:7), but rather to keep our requests, or cries for help, constantly before God, day by day, believing He will answer. God may delay answering, but His delays always have a purpose (Romans 5:3-5). Assurance of answered prayer brings peace (Hebrews 4:16, Psalm 3:5, Philippians 4:7).

Although we can go into His presence with great confidence, because of Jesus, we also need to approach our holy and glorious God with total humility. Like the tax collector, we are aware of our sin, and beg God for mercy. But, self-righteousness leads to pride and alienation from God.

Prayer: Gracious God, forgive us for our pride and arrogance and for being of such little faith in the way we pray to You. We are so thankful for Your mercy towards us and for the wonderful gift of prayer. Help us to diligently seek Your presence daily in our prayers, and to persevere in our petitions mindful that You are not like an unjust judge. Amen.

21 March 2019

Luke 17

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied round their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble. So watch yourselves.
‘If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying “I repent,” you must forgive them.’
The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’
He replied, ‘If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, “Be uprooted and planted in the sea,” and it will obey you.
‘Suppose one of you has a servant ploughing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, “Come along now and sit down to eat”? Won’t he rather say, “Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink”? Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 10 So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, “We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.”’
Jesus heals ten men with leprosy
11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus travelled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, ‘Jesus, Master, have pity on us!’
14 When he saw them, he said, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ And as they went, they were cleansed.
15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him – and he was a Samaritan.
17 Jesus asked, ‘Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?’ 19 Then he said to him, ‘Rise and go; your faith has made you well.’
The coming of the kingdom of God
20 Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, ‘The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, 21 nor will people say, “Here it is,” or “There it is,” because the kingdom of God is in your midst.’
22 Then he said to his disciples, ‘The time is coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. 23 People will tell you, “There he is!” or “Here he is!” Do not go running off after them. 24 For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other. 25 But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.
26 ‘Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. 27 People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.
28 ‘It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. 29 But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulphur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.
30 ‘It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. 31 On that day no one who is on the housetop, with possessions inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. 32 Remember Lot’s wife! 33 Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it. 34 I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. 35 Two women will be grinding corn together; one will be taken and the other left.’ [e
37 ‘Where, Lord?’ they asked.
He replied, ‘Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.’

‘If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, “I repent”, forgive him.’ Luke 17:4

Prayer: Father God, first of all, we are so humbled and thankful that You forgive us (Romans 4:7-8), an undeserved privilege. Understanding Your gracious forgiveness toward us makes us more willing to forgive those who hurt us, and to forget the wrongs committed against us. May we also heed the warning, that if we do not forgive others their sins, You will not forgive us (Matthew 6:15). Lord, help us not to harbour any bitterness in our hearts, but to trust You, that forgiveness changes bitterness to joy. Amen.

20 March 2019

Genesis 46

So Israel set out with all that was his, and when he reached Beersheba, he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac.
And God spoke to Israel in a vision at night and said, ‘Jacob! Jacob!’
‘Here I am,’ he replied.
‘I am God, the God of your father,’ he said. ‘Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again. And Joseph’s own hand will close your eyes.’
Then Jacob left Beersheba, and Israel’s sons took their father Jacob and their children and their wives in the carts that Pharaoh had sent to transport him. So Jacob and all his offspring went to Egypt, taking with them their livestock and the possessions they had acquired in Canaan. Jacob brought with him to Egypt his sons and grandsons and his daughters and granddaughters – all his offspring.
These are the names of the sons of Israel (Jacob and his descendants) who went to Egypt:
Reuben the firstborn of Jacob.
The sons of Reuben:
Hanok, Pallu, Hezron and Karmi.
10 The sons of Simeon:
Jemuel, Jamin, Ohad, Jakin, Zohar and Shaul the son of a Canaanite woman.
11 The sons of Levi:
Gershon, Kohath and Merari.
12 The sons of Judah:
Er, Onan, Shelah, Perez and Zerah (but Er and Onan had died in the land of Canaan).
The sons of Perez:
Hezron and Hamul.
13 The sons of Issachar:
Tola, Puah, Jashub and Shimron.
14 The sons of Zebulun:
Sered, Elon and Jahleel.
15 These were the sons Leah bore to Jacob in Paddan Aram, besides his daughter Dinah. These sons and daughters of his were thirty-three in all.
16 The sons of Gad:
Zephon, Haggi, Shuni, Ezbon, Eri, Arodi and Areli.
17 The sons of Asher:
Imnah, Ishvah, Ishvi and Beriah.
Their sister was Serah.
The sons of Beriah:
Heber and Malkiel.
18 These were the children born to Jacob by Zilpah, whom Laban had given to his daughter Leah – sixteen in all.
19 The sons of Jacob’s wife Rachel:
Joseph and Benjamin. 20 In Egypt, Manasseh and Ephraim were born to Joseph by Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On.[e
21 The sons of Benjamin:
Bela, Beker, Ashbel, Gera, Naaman, Ehi, Rosh, Muppim, Huppim and Ard.
22 These were the sons of Rachel who were born to Jacob – fourteen in all.
23 The son of Dan:
Hushim.
24 The sons of Naphtali:
Jahziel, Guni, Jezer and Shillem.
25 These were the sons born to Jacob by Bilhah, whom Laban had given to his daughter Rachel – seven in all.
26 All those who went to Egypt with Jacob – those who were his direct descendants, not counting his sons’ wives – numbered sixty-six persons. 27 With the two sons who had been born to Joseph in Egypt, the members of Jacob’s family, which went to Egypt, were seventy in all.
28 Now Jacob sent Judah ahead of him to Joseph to get directions to Goshen. When they arrived in the region of Goshen, 29 Joseph had his chariot made ready and went to Goshen to meet his father Israel. As soon as Joseph appeared before him, he threw his arms around his father and wept for a long time.
30 Israel said to Joseph, ‘Now I am ready to die, since I have seen for myself that you are still alive.’
31 Then Joseph said to his brothers and to his father’s household, ‘I will go up and speak to Pharaoh and will say to him, “My brothers and my father’s household, who were living in the land of Canaan, have come to me. 32 The men are shepherds; they tend livestock, and they have brought along their flocks and herds and everything they own.” 33 When Pharaoh calls you in and asks, “What is your occupation?” 34 you should answer, “Your servants have tended livestock from our boyhood on, just as our fathers did.” Then you will be allowed to settle in the region of Goshen, for all shepherds are detestable to the Egyptians.’

‘I am God, the God of your father, he said. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there.’ Genesis 46:3

Prayer:  Lord God, we thank You for Your faithfulness and for keeping Your promises. We do thank You for so many wonderful promises that You have given us in Your Word. Many times, You tell us not to be afraid, because You are with us. Help us to trust You when we are overwhelmed, and help us to remember that You are with us always, to the end of our days here on earth. And thank You, that You have promised that He who began a good work in us, will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6). Thank You that we can cast all our burdens on You, knowing that You will give us strength to persevere. Amen.

19 March 2019

Genesis 45

Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, ‘Make everyone leave my presence!’ So there was no one with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and Pharaoh’s household heard about it.
Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am Joseph! Is my father still living?’ But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence.
Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Come close to me.’ When they had done so, he said, ‘I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no ploughing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.
‘So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt. Now hurry back to my father and say to him, “This is what your son Joseph says: God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; don’t delay. 10 You shall live in the region of Goshen and be near me – you, your children and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and all you have. 11 I will provide for you there, because five years of famine are still to come. Otherwise you and your household and all who belong to you will become destitute.”
12 ‘You can see for yourselves, and so can my brother Benjamin, that it is really I who am speaking to you. 13 Tell my father about all the honour accorded me in Egypt and about everything you have seen. And bring my father down here quickly.’
14 Then he threw his arms around his brother Benjamin and wept, and Benjamin embraced him, weeping. 15 And he kissed all his brothers and wept over them. Afterwards his brothers talked with him.
16 When the news reached Pharaoh’s palace that Joseph’s brothers had come, Pharaoh and all his officials were pleased. 17 Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Tell your brothers, “Do this: load your animals and return to the land of Canaan, 18 and bring your father and your families back to me. I will give you the best of the land of Egypt and you can enjoy the fat of the land.”
19 ‘You are also instructed to tell them, “Do this: take some carts from Egypt for your children and your wives, and get your father and come. 20 Never mind about your belongings, because the best of all Egypt will be yours.”’
21 So the sons of Israel did this. Joseph gave them carts, as Pharaoh had commanded, and he also gave them provisions for their journey. 22 To each of them he gave new clothing, but to Benjamin he gave three hundred shekels of silver and five sets of clothes. 23 And this is what he sent to his father: ten donkeys loaded with the best things of Egypt, and ten female donkeys loaded with grain and bread and other provisions for his journey. 24 Then he sent his brothers away, and as they were leaving he said to them, ‘Don’t quarrel on the way!’
25 So they went up out of Egypt and came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan. 26 They told him, ‘Joseph is still alive! In fact, he is ruler of all Egypt.’ Jacob was stunned; he did not believe them. 27 But when they told him everything Joseph had said to them, and when he saw the carts Joseph had sent to carry him back, the spirit of their father Jacob revived. 28 And Israel said, ‘I’m convinced! My son Joseph is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.’

‘So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God.’ Genesis 45:8a

Although Joseph’s brothers had evil intent, when they sold him into slavery because of envy and selfishness, God used their evil actions to fulfil His ultimate plans. God is sovereign. Joseph was sent ahead to Egypt to preserve many lives, including that of his family who would in due course become the nation of Israel, through whom a Saviour would come. God’s plans are not dictated by human actions.

Joseph was rejected, enslaved and imprisoned, because of his brothers’ actions, yet he forgave them and shared generously of his provisions. Joseph’s actions demonstrate how God forgives us and showers us with blessings, even though we have sinned against Him.

Prayer: Gracious Father, help us remember that when others have evil intent toward us, that they are only Your tools, and that You have ultimate control in this world. May we trust You that Your purposes for us are being fulfilled, even in desperate and confusing circumstances. And, thank You Father, that You forgive us for our evil hearts, thoughts and deeds; and for lavishing us with every spiritual blessing in Christ. Let us never give up hope that You have a wonderful future in store for us, Your children. Amen.

18 March 2019

Genesis 44

Now Joseph gave these instructions to the steward of his house: ‘Fill the men’s sacks with as much food as they can carry, and put each man’s silver in the mouth of his sack. Then put my cup, the silver one, in the mouth of the youngest one’s sack, along with the silver for his grain.’ And he did as Joseph said.
As morning dawned, the men were sent on their way with their donkeys. They had not gone far from the city when Joseph said to his steward, ‘Go after those men at once, and when you catch up with them, say to them, “Why have you repaid good with evil? Isn’t this the cup my master drinks from and also uses for divination? This is a wicked thing you have done.”’
When he caught up with them, he repeated these words to them. But they said to him, ‘Why does my lord say such things? Far be it from your servants to do anything like that! We even brought back to you from the land of Canaan the silver we found inside the mouths of our sacks. So why would we steal silver or gold from your master’s house? If any of your servants is found to have it, he will die; and the rest of us will become my lord’s slaves.’
10 ‘Very well, then,’ he said, ‘let it be as you say. Whoever is found to have it will become my slave; the rest of you will be free from blame.’
11 Each of them quickly lowered his sack to the ground and opened it. 12 Then the steward proceeded to search, beginning with the eldest and ending with the youngest. And the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack. 13 At this, they tore their clothes. Then they all loaded their donkeys and returned to the city.
14 Joseph was still in the house when Judah and his brothers came in, and they threw themselves to the ground before him. 15 Joseph said to them, ‘What is this you have done? Don’t you know that a man like me can find things out by divination?’
16 ‘What can we say to my lord?’ Judah replied. ‘What can we say? How can we prove our innocence? God has uncovered your servants’ guilt. We are now my lord’s slaves – we ourselves and the one who was found to have the cup.’
17 But Joseph said, ‘Far be it from me to do such a thing! Only the man who was found to have the cup will become my slave. The rest of you, go back to your father in peace.’
18 Then Judah went up to him and said: ‘Pardon your servant, my lord, let me speak a word to my lord. Do not be angry with your servant, though you are equal to Pharaoh himself. 19 My lord asked his servants, “Do you have a father or a brother?” 20 And we answered, “We have an aged father, and there is a young son born to him in his old age. His brother is dead, and he is the only one of his mother’s sons left, and his father loves him.”
21 ‘Then you said to your servants, “Bring him down to me so I can see him for myself.” 22 And we said to my lord, “The boy cannot leave his father; if he leaves him, his father will die.” 23 But you told your servants, “Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you will not see my face again.” 24 When we went back to your servant my father, we told him what my lord had said.
25 ‘Then our father said, “Go back and buy a little more food.” 26 But we said, “We cannot go down. Only if our youngest brother is with us will we go. We cannot see the man’s face unless our youngest brother is with us.”
27 ‘Your servant my father said to us, “You know that my wife bore me two sons. 28 One of them went away from me, and I said, ‘He has surely been torn to pieces.’ And I have not seen him since. 29 If you take this one from me too and harm comes to him, you will bring my grey head down to the grave in misery.”
30 ‘So now, if the boy is not with us when I go back to your servant my father, and if my father, whose life is closely bound up with the boy’s life, 31 sees that the boy isn’t there, he will die. Your servants will bring the grey head of our father down to the grave in sorrow. 32 Your servant guaranteed the boy’s safety to my father. I said, “If I do not bring him back to you, I will bear the blame before you, my father, all my life!”
33 ‘Now then, please let your servant remain here as my lord’s slave in place of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers. 34 How can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? No! Do not let me see the misery that would come on my father.’

‘What can we say to my lord? Judah replied. What can we say? How can we prove our innocence? God has uncovered your servants’ guilt.’ (Genesis 44:16a)

Prayer: Dear Father God, sometimes life is perplexing and out of our control, but we are thankful that we can come to You when we are desperate. When we are tempted to give up hope, help us to remember that You, O God, can work a change in us, or in any situation. We plead for Your mercy, because we are all guilty before You, but know that You are a gracious and loving Father, who longs to bless us and forgive us. May we be content, in Christ, in whatever situation we find ourselves at this moment in time. Amen.

16 March 2019

Philippians 4:1-9

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!
I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.
Final exhortations
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Prayer: Almighty God, You see that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves: keep us outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all harm that may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts that may attack and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

15 March 2019

Luke 16

Jesus told his disciples: ‘There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. So he called him in and asked him, “What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.”
‘The manager said to himself, “What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg – I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.”
‘So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, “How much do you owe my master?”
‘“Three thousand litres of olive oil,” he replied.
‘The manager told him, “Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it fifteen hundred.”
‘Then he asked the second, “And how much do you owe?”
‘“Thirty tons of wheat,” he replied.
‘He told him, “Take your bill and make it twenty-four.”
‘The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.
10 ‘Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. 11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12 And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?
13 ‘No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.’
14 The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. 15 He said to them, ‘You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.
Additional teachings
16 ‘The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing their way into it. 17 It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.
18 ‘Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
The rich man and Lazarus
19 ‘There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
22 ‘The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, “Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.”
25 ‘But Abraham replied, “Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.”
27 ‘He answered, “Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.”
29 ‘Abraham replied, “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.”
30 ‘“No, father Abraham,” he said, “but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.”
31 ‘He said to him, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”’

Some Christians consider any talk about money in the church as unspiritual, and so become uncomfortable whenever the topic is addressed from the pulpit. The church is just after our money, or so they may think. And yet, in this chapter Jesus speaks in extended fashion about money, and it is evident that he is concerned about how we, as His followers, handle it. There is a warning at the heart of the chapter that I want to focus on.

Jesus informs His listeners that you cannot serve both God and money (Luke 16:13). Either you will hate the one and love the other or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. In a nutshell, you cannot serve two masters. Jesus here recognises that money tends to master us, or rule us, rather than the other way around. Simply put, it all too often ‘calls the shots’ in our lives and decision-making; it becomes a master, not a servant.

The Pharisees hear Jesus’ teaching on this matter, but don’t believe a word of it (Luke 16:14). The Pharisees, well-known for their religious devotion to God’s Law, no doubt think that they can handle money just fine, and so they ridicule Jesus’ teaching. The reason? Luke tells us they ‘were lovers of money’. Herein lies the problem; it is not money, but the love of money that is the root of all evil, as Paul instructs his readers elsewhere (cf. 1 Timothy 6:10).

The Pharisees are obviously not alone in this sentiment. We can also sneer, albeit inadvertently, at Jesus’ teaching on this point. We think we know better than Him; we think we can love both God and money without any negative consequences. In truth, we want to be like the rich man in this life, and like Lazarus in the life to come. But, says Jesus, God knows your divided hearts; you can’t fool Him. And what He sees within us is an abomination in His sight (Luke 16:15).

So, Christian, handle your money with care. You can resist its power to ensnare you by honouring God in its use, and being open-handed and generous to those in need.

Prayer: Dear Lord, we acknowledge that every good gift we have comes from Your hand – everything good! Thank You for your faithful provision of all our needs and those of our families. You have been exceedingly good and faithful to us. But these parables challenge us, as your children, to use our resources in light of eternity and for the good of those in need.

Forgive us, Lord, when we use our resources for selfish, self-indulgent purposes as though this present world which is passing away is all that matters.

Forgive us, Lord, for at times handling our resources in a manner that is indistinguishable from the pattern of the world, that makes money an idol that displaces devotion to You.

Forgive us, Lord, for allowing our own needs to blind us to the needs of others.

As we reflect on our giving, help us to remember your sacrificial gift to secure our great salvation. You did not withhold Your one and only Son from us. Thank You, Lord, for Your indescribable gift to us! May our gratitude be reflected in our generous giving to the needs of others. Amen.

14 March 2019

Luke 15

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering round to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, ‘This man welcomes sinners, and eats with them.’
Then Jesus told them this parable: ‘Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbours together and says, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.” I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who do not need to repent.
The parable of the lost coin
‘Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbours together and says, “Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.” 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.’
The parable of the lost son
11 Jesus continued: ‘There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, “Father, give me my share of the estate.” So he divided his property between them.
13 ‘Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
17 ‘When he came to his senses, he said, “How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.” 20 So he got up and went to his father.
‘But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms round him and kissed him.
21 ‘The son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.”
22 ‘But the father said to his servants, “Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” So they began to celebrate.
25 ‘Meanwhile, the elder son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 “Your brother has come,” he replied, “and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.”
28 ‘The elder brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, “Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!”
31 ‘“My son,” the father said, “you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”’

Prayer: Thank You, Lord, for Your great salvation. Thank You that You are a God who not only seeks after and saves the one sinner who is lost, but who also rejoices when even a single sinner is found. At times, Lord, I confess I find that kind of rejoicing hard to believe, because we are all so unworthy of Your salvation.

And thank You, Lord, that You do not have 1st, 2nd and 3rd class categories of believers. We are all equally unworthy of salvation, and all equally blessed with full and permanent acceptance into the family of God when we believe the Gospel.

Forgive us, Lord, for not, like You, seeking after the lost that they may be saved through the Gospel, and, when found, forgive us for not always rejoicing in their divine rescue from sin and death.

Indeed, forgive us, Lord, for at times being more like the older brother, grumbling and complaining about the fact that You are a God who welcomes sinners when they repent.

Forgive us, Lord, for believing that somehow we are more deserving or worthy of Your gracious salvation.

Teach us, Lord, we pray, to seek after the lost and, like you, to truly rejoice when they are saved, every single one of them. Amen.

13 March 2019

Genesis 43

Now the famine was still severe in the land. So when they had eaten all the grain they had brought from Egypt, their father said to them, ‘Go back and buy us a little more food.’
But Judah said to him, ‘The man warned us solemnly, “You will not see my face again unless your brother is with you.” If you will send our brother along with us, we will go down and buy food for you. But if you will not send him, we will not go down, because the man said to us, “You will not see my face again unless your brother is with you.”’
Israel asked, ‘Why did you bring this trouble on me by telling the man you had another brother?’
They replied, ‘The man questioned us closely about ourselves and our family. “Is your father still living?” he asked us. “Do you have another brother?” We simply answered his questions. How were we to know he would say, “Bring your brother down here”?’
Then Judah said to Israel his father, ‘Send the boy along with me and we will go at once, so that we and you and our children may live and not die. I myself will guarantee his safety; you can hold me personally responsible for him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him here before you, I will bear the blame before you all my life. 10 As it is, if we had not delayed, we could have gone and returned twice.’
11 Then their father Israel said to them, ‘If it must be, then do this: put some of the best products of the land in your bags and take them down to the man as a gift – a little balm and a little honey, some spices and myrrh, some pistachio nuts and almonds. 12 Take double the amount of silver with you, for you must return the silver that was put back into the mouths of your sacks. Perhaps it was a mistake. 13 Take your brother also and go back to the man at once. 14 And may God Almighty grant you mercy before the man so that he will let your other brother and Benjamin come back with you. As for me, if I am bereaved, I am bereaved.’
15 So the men took the gifts and double the amount of silver, and Benjamin also. They hurried down to Egypt and presented themselves to Joseph. 16 When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the steward of his house, ‘Take these men to my house, slaughter an animal and prepare a meal; they are to eat with me at noon.’
17 The man did as Joseph told him and took the men to Joseph’s house. 18 Now the men were frightened when they were taken to his house. They thought, ‘We were brought here because of the silver that was put back into our sacks the first time. He wants to attack us and overpower us and seize us as slaves and take our donkeys.’
19 So they went up to Joseph’s steward and spoke to him at the entrance to the house. 20 ‘We beg your pardon, our lord,’ they said, ‘we came down here the first time to buy food. 21 But at the place where we stopped for the night we opened our sacks and each of us found his silver – the exact weight – in the mouth of his sack. So we have brought it back with us. 22 We have also brought additional silver with us to buy food. We don’t know who put our silver in our sacks.’
23 ‘It’s all right,’ he said. ‘Don’t be afraid. Your God, the God of your father, has given you treasure in your sacks; I received your silver.’ Then he brought Simeon out to them.
24 The steward took the men into Joseph’s house, gave them water to wash their feet and provided fodder for their donkeys. 25 They prepared their gifts for Joseph’s arrival at noon, because they had heard that they were to eat there.
26 When Joseph came home, they presented to him the gifts they had brought into the house, and they bowed down before him to the ground. 27 He asked them how they were, and then he said, ‘How is your aged father you told me about? Is he still living?’
28 They replied, ‘Your servant our father is still alive and well.’ And they bowed down, prostrating themselves before him.
29 As he looked about and saw his brother Benjamin, his own mother’s son, he asked, ‘Is this your youngest brother, the one you told me about?’ And he said, ‘God be gracious to you, my son.’ 30 Deeply moved at the sight of his brother, Joseph hurried out and looked for a place to weep. He went into his private room and wept there.
31 After he had washed his face, he came out and, controlling himself, said, ‘Serve the food.’
32 They served him by himself, the brothers by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves, because Egyptians could not eat with Hebrews, for that is detestable to Egyptians. 33 The men had been seated before him in the order of their ages, from the firstborn to the youngest; and they looked at each other in astonishment. 34 When portions were served to them from Joseph’s table, Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as anyone else’s. So they feasted and drank freely with him.

Prayer: Dear Lord, in this chapter we witness the feeble faith of Jacob and the uneasy consciences and fear of Joseph’s brothers. Yet it is noteworthy, Lord, that unbelieving and unworthy as they were, You granted them not only mercy before Joseph, but also favour so that they received ‘royal treatment’, so to speak, at the hands of Joseph.

Surely, Lord, this is a picture of the way in which You treat us as unworthy sinners, knowing us by name, being both merciful and gracious towards all of us and blessing us abundantly. Help us, Lord, to remember that there is nothing we can do to make You love us more, or nothing we can do to make You love us less, for You are a gracious and merciful God.

Forgive us, Lord, when we forget these truths about You, and allow past sins to undermine confidence in our great and gracious salvation. Help us to remember that we can approach Your gracious throne at any time to find help in our time of need (cf. Hebrews 4:14-16). Amen.

12 March 2019

Genesis 42

When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, ‘Why do you just keep looking at each other?’ He continued, ‘I have heard that there is grain in Egypt. Go down there and buy some for us, so that we may live and not die.’
Then ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain from Egypt. But Jacob did not send Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, with the others, because he was afraid that harm might come to him. So Israel’s sons were among those who went to buy grain, for there was famine in the land of Canaan also.
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. As soon as Joseph saw his brothers, he recognised 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.’
Although Joseph recognised his brothers, they did not recognise him. 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: as surely as Pharaoh lives, you will not leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here. 16 Send one of your number to get your brother; the rest of you will be kept in prison, so that your words may be tested to see if you are telling the truth. If you are not, then as surely as Pharaoh lives, you are spies!’ 17 And he put them all in custody for three days.
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 realise 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.
25 Joseph gave orders to fill their bags with grain, to put each man’s silver back in his sack, and to give them provisions for their journey. After this was done for them, 26 they loaded their grain on their donkeys and left.
27 At the place where they stopped for the night one of them opened his sack to get feed for his donkey, and he saw his silver in the mouth of his sack. 28 ‘My silver has been returned,’ he said to his brothers. ‘Here it is in my sack.’
Their hearts sank and they turned to each other trembling and said, ‘What is this that God has done to us?’
29 When they came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan, they told him all that had happened to them. They said, 30 ‘The man who is lord over the land spoke harshly to us and treated us as though we were spying on the land. 31 But we said to him, “We are honest men; we are not spies. 32 We were twelve brothers, sons of one father. One is no more, and the youngest is now with our father in Canaan.”
33 ‘Then the man who is lord over the land said to us, “This is how I will know whether you are honest men: leave one of your brothers here with me, and take food for your starving households and go. 34 But bring your youngest brother to me so I will know that you are not spies but honest men. Then I will give your brother back to you, and you can trade[a] in the land.”’
35 As they were emptying their sacks, there in each man’s sack was his pouch of silver! When they and their father saw the money pouches, they were frightened. 36 Their father Jacob said to them, ‘You have deprived me of my children. Joseph is no more and Simeon is no more, and now you want to take Benjamin. Everything is against me!’
37 Then Reuben said to his father, ‘You may put both of my sons to death if I do not bring him back to you. Entrust him to my care, and I will bring him back.’
38 But Jacob said, ‘My son will not go down there with you; his brother is dead and he is the only one left. If harm comes to him on the journey you are taking, you will bring my grey head down to the grave in sorrow.’

Prayer:Dear Lord, the account of Joseph reminds us of the painful reality of living, at times for many years, with broken relationships, sometimes with our families and sometimes with our friends or acquaintances. Lord, help me to recognise that this state of affairs is not pleasing to you, after all you sent your one and only Son to die on a cross not only to bring reconciliation between God and man, but also to bring reconciliation in our human relationships.

Lord, as we reflect on the life of Joseph, help us to recognise that we are not free of sin even when others have sinned against us and our relationships have broken down. We too are in the need of forgiveness. But, like Joseph, help us to be merciful towards those who have hurt and betrayed us, and when circumstances permit, like Joseph, let us pursue forgiveness and reconciliation with them.

Forgive us, Lord, when we are content to live with broken relationships, and remain vengeful and unforgiving when circumstances allow for reconciliation.

Thank you, Lord, that while we were still sinners and enemies, you took the initiative to reconcile us to yourself through the death of your Son, Jesus, as Paul reminds (cf. Romans 5:10-11). May your example spur us on to seek forgiveness and reconciliation with those who have sinned against us and deeply hurt us. Amen.

11 March 2019

Genesis 41

When two full years had passed, Pharaoh had a dream: he was standing by the Nile, when out of the river there came up seven cows, sleek and fat, and they grazed among the reeds. After them, seven other cows, ugly and gaunt, came up out of the Nile and stood beside those on the river-bank. And the cows that were ugly and gaunt ate up the seven sleek, fat cows. Then Pharaoh woke up.
He fell asleep again and had a second dream: seven ears of corn, healthy and good, were growing on a single stalk. After them, seven other ears of corn sprouted – thin and scorched by the east wind. The thin ears of corn swallowed up the seven healthy, full ears. Then Pharaoh woke up; it had been a dream.
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.
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.’
17 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘In my dream I was standing on the bank of the Nile, 18 when out of the river there came up seven cows, fat and sleek, and they grazed among the reeds. 19 After them, seven other cows came up – scrawny and very ugly and lean. I had never seen such ugly cows in all the land of Egypt. 20 The lean, ugly cows ate up the seven fat cows that came up first. 21 But even after they ate them, no one could tell that they had done so; they looked just as ugly as before. Then I woke up.
22 ‘In my dream I saw seven ears of corn, full and good, growing on a single stalk. 23 After them, seven other ears sprouted – withered and thin and scorched by the east wind. 24 The thin ears of corn swallowed up the seven good ears. I told this to the magicians, but none of them could explain it to me.’
25 Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, ‘The dreams of Pharaoh are one and the same. God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. 26 The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good ears of corn are seven years; it is one and the same dream. 27 The seven lean, ugly cows that came up afterwards are seven years, and so are the seven worthless ears of corn scorched by the east wind: they are seven years of famine.
28 ‘It is just as I said to Pharaoh: God has shown Pharaoh what he is about to do. 29 Seven years of great abundance are coming throughout the land of Egypt, 30 but seven years of famine will follow them. Then all the abundance in Egypt will be forgotten, and the famine will ravage the land. 31 The abundance in the land will not be remembered, because the famine that follows it will be so severe. 32 The reason the dream was given to Pharaoh in two forms is that the matter has been firmly decided by God, and God will do it soon.
33 ‘And now let Pharaoh look for a discerning and wise man and put him in charge of the land of Egypt. 34 Let Pharaoh appoint commissioners over the land to take a fifth of the harvest of Egypt during the seven years of abundance. 35 They should collect all the food of these good years that are coming and store up the grain under the authority of Pharaoh, to be kept in the cities for food. 36 This food should be held in reserve for the country, to be used during the seven years of famine that will come upon Egypt, so that the country may not be ruined by the famine.’
37 The plan seemed good to Pharaoh and to all his officials. 38 So Pharaoh asked them, ‘Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?’[a
39 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. 40 You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.’
Joseph in charge of Egypt
41 So Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.’ 42 Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph’s finger. He dressed him in robes of fine linen and put a gold chain round his neck. 43 He made him ride in a chariot as his second-in-command, and people shouted before him, ‘Make way!’ Thus he put him in charge of the whole land of Egypt.
44 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I am Pharaoh, but without your word no one will lift hand or foot in all Egypt.’ 45 Pharaoh gave Joseph the name Zaphenath-Paneah and gave him Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, to be his wife. And Joseph went throughout the land of Egypt.
46 Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from Pharaoh’s presence and travelled throughout Egypt. 47 During the seven years of abundance the land produced plentifully. 48 Joseph collected all the food produced in those seven years of abundance in Egypt and stored it in the cities. In each city he put the food grown in the fields surrounding it. 49 Joseph stored up huge quantities of grain, like the sand of the sea; it was so much that he stopped keeping records because it was beyond measure.
50 Before the years of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph by Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On. 51 Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said, ‘It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.’ 52 The second son he named Ephraim and said, ‘It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.’
53 The seven years of abundance in Egypt came to an end, 54 and the seven years of famine began, just as Joseph had said. There was famine in all the other lands, but in the whole land of Egypt there was food. 55 When all Egypt began to feel the famine, the people cried to Pharaoh for food. Then Pharaoh told all the Egyptians, ‘Go to Joseph and do what he tells you.’
56 When the famine had spread over the whole country, Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold grain to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe throughout Egypt. 57 And all the world came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe everywhere.

The Biblical account of Joseph is a great story with lots of unexpected twists and turns, but with a happy ending. Joseph, a precocious teenager, offends his brothers, and is sold into slavery. He is falsely accused by his master’s wife of sexual harassment and ends up in prison, only to rise unexpectedly and suddenly to be ruler of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh. It reads like a rags to riches Hollywood movie that some people love to watch. Joseph’s rise to power in Egypt is showcased in this chapter. However, it is apparent that this does not happen quickly for Joseph, but in God’s timing.

In Genesis 41, the cup-bearer sins against Joseph by inexplicably forgetting to honour Joseph’s request to him in prison (cf. Genesis 40:9ff; 41:9). Consequently, Joseph languishes in prison for a further two years for a crime he did not commit (verse 11; cf. 40:15). The point, of course, is that Joseph’s rise to power and prominence in Egypt was not smooth or plain-sailing. It might have been unexpected and sudden on the day, but it certainly wasn’t quick. Indeed, a period of about 13 years elapsed between the commencement of Joseph’s slavery and his release from the Egyptian prison (cf. Genesis 37:2; 41:46). It was tough going for Joseph – for many years! But as we will see, God’s timing is always perfect. Unlike the cup-bearer, God had not forgotten Joseph; there was a reason for the two-year delay.

Joseph’s deliverance was God’s doing (verse 16). But the timing was critical. It was the interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream that secured Joseph’s release and promotion. Consider for a moment if the cup-bearer two years earlier, newly released from prison, had honoured Joseph’s request (verse 14)? Any possible deliverance at that point would have been premature for God’s purposes. God had bigger and better plans for Joseph – to become the key person in the deliverance of “every land” from a severe and extended famine (verse 57). Who would have said? Who could have known? It is not difficult at this point to see parallels between Joseph and Jesus – both were betrayed and unjustly accused; both were unexpectedly raised up by God to save the nations!

God’s dealings with Joseph are a salutary reminder to trust God’s timing in His dealings with our struggles and day-to-day difficulties. Deliverance may or may not come quickly, or it may not come at all. Whatever the case, whatever the reason, we have to trust God that it is for our good and His glory. To be sure, Joseph’s story is not our story, but Joseph’s God is our God. Trust Him!

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you for the life of Joseph that assures me of Your presence through all the ups and downs of my earthly life. Forgive me, Lord, for doubting You and Your Word in any way when things don’t go according to my plans.

Thank You, Lord, that unlike the cup-bearer, You never forget me and are always at work in and through me to achieve Your good and glorious purposes. Help me to recognise and remember that it is not the pharaohs of this world who ultimately ‘call the shots’, but You, the Almighty, all-knowing God who knows the future and whose word does not fail.

Give me the grace to trust You with my future and, like Joseph, to honour You whatever my circumstances. And when the going gets tough, give me the grace and strength to persevere and remain patient and steadfast in my faith, mindful that, like Joseph, my deliverance may not be quick.

Finally, Lord, thank You for the Lord Jesus Christ, who, like Joseph, was betrayed by his brothers and unjustly suffered much, but honoured You, and was in due course raised up to save the nations. Amen.

9 March 2019

Philippians 3:10-21

I want to know Christ – yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, 14 I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.

Following Paul’s example

15 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained.

17 Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

Lord Jesus Christ, for our sake You fasted forty days and forty night: give us grace to use such self-control that, our flesh being subdued to the spirit, we may always obey Your will in righteousness and true holiness, to Your honour and glory; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, for evermore. Amen

8 March 2019

Luke 14

One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. There in front of him was a man suffering from abnormal swelling of his body. Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, ‘Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?’But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him on his way.

Then he asked them, ‘If one of you has a child or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull it out?’And they had nothing to say.

When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honour at the table, he told them this parable: ‘When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honour, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited.If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, “Give this person your seat.” Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place.10 But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, “Friend, move up to a better place.” Then you will be honoured in the presence of all the other guests.11 For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.’

12 Then Jesus said to his host, ‘When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbours; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid.13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind,14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.’

The parable of the great banquet

15 When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, ‘Blessed is the one who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.’

16 Jesus replied: ‘A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests.17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, “Come, for everything is now ready.”

18 ‘But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, “I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.”

19 ‘Another said, “I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.”

20 ‘Still another said, “I have just got married, so I can’t come.”

21 ‘The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, “Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.”

22 ‘“Sir,” the servant said, “what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.”

23 ‘Then the master told his servant, “Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.24 I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.”’

The cost of being a disciple

25 Large crowds were travelling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26 ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters – yes, even their own life – such a person cannot be my disciple.27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

28 ‘Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?29 For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you,30 saying, “This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.”

31 ‘Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand?32 If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace.33 In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.

34 ‘Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?35 It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure heap; it is thrown out.

‘Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.’

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You gave up everything You had ever known to come to earth as a baby. As a man You submitted completely to Your Father’s will and suffered torture and crucifixion. You did all this to draw me to Yourself, provide me with forgiveness, a new heart and a way to heaven. Help me to carry my cross and follow You in every part of my life. Grant that I would show grace and humility in following You, seeking the good of others before myself. Help me to know that everyone I encounter is made in Your image. Help me, Lord, to be Your disciple. I ask this in the name of Jesus. Amen.

7 March 2019

Luke 13

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, ‘Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way?I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them – do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.’

Then he told this parable: ‘A man had a fig-tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any.So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, “For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig-tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?”

‘“Sir,” the man replied, “leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig round it and fertilise it.If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.”’

Jesus heals a crippled woman on the Sabbath

10 On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, 11 and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, ‘Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.’13 Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.

14 Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader said to the people, ‘There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.’

15 The Lord answered him, ‘You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water?16 Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?’

17 When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.

The parables of the mustard seed and the yeast

18 Then Jesus asked, ‘What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to?19 It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.’

20 Again he asked, ‘What shall I compare the kingdom of God to?21 It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about thirty kilograms of flour until it worked all through the dough.’

The narrow door

22 Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. 23 Someone asked him, ‘Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?’

He said to them, 24 ‘Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.25 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, “Sir, open the door for us.”

‘But he will answer, “I don’t know you or where you come from.”

26 ‘Then you will say, “We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.”

27 ‘But he will reply, “I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!”

28 ‘There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out.29 People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.30 Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.’

Jesus’ sorrow for Jerusalem

31 At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, ‘Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.’

32 He replied, ‘Go and tell that fox, “I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.”33 In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day – for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!

34 ‘Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.35 Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”

Luke 13 is characterised by parables, the growing opposition of the Jewish leaders to Jesus’ ministry and His call for people to repent.  

The call to repent is typified by the challenge of going through the Narrow Door. ‘Narrow’ paints a picture of a space that needs to be squeezed through with very little extra room. When one thinks of going through this kind of space to get in somewhere, it strongly suggests that there is no other way to gain access. Why would one squirm ones way through an entrance if there was a wider, easier way in?

As Christians, we believe that Jesus is the only One who can forgive us our sins when we repent and that faith/belief in His death and resurrection is the only means by which we can enter heaven. There is simply no other way of getting in. This is not a trite signing of a membership card asserting belief in God or having a set of laws to adhere to. It is a radical change of heart and mind that comes from God by faith. We only have to look at the synagogue leader in verse 14 to see how much needs changing. Instead of rejoicing and praising God that a woman, crippled for 18 years, had been healed, he was outraged that this healing was done on the Sabbath. Where was the person who just witnessed an end to terrible suffering? Where was the person who looked on a miraculous healing? How could he not see?? Jesus is not gentle with such people who care more for their animals than their fellow human beings but believe they are serving God.

Large crowds came to hear Jesus but how many were loyal followers?

In John 10:7 Jesus says ‘I am the door’. He is pointing to His unique divine identity and purpose. ‘The door’ is the metaphor He uses which alludes to His exclusive way of salvation. There is no other way. Anyone who believes the gospel and repents of sin is assured of entering in by ‘the door’.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank You that You have opened up the way by which we are saved. Thank You that the way has been made clear and it does not require great intellect or achievement. You and You alone have made it possible. Lord, please continue to work in our hearts by the power of Your Holy Spirit so that we will continue to be changed more into Your likeness. Soften our hearts so that we will continue to listen to You and serve You. Help us to be Your loyal followers day by day, week by week and year by year. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

6 March 2019

Genesis 40

Some time later, the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt offended their master, the king of Egypt. Pharaoh was angry with his two officials, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, and put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the same prison where Joseph was confined. The captain of the guard assigned them to Joseph, and he attended them.

After they had been in custody for some time, each of the two men – the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were being held in prison – had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own.

When Joseph came to them the next morning, he saw that they were dejected. So he asked Pharaoh’s officials who were in custody with him in his master’s house, ‘Why do you look so sad today?’

‘We both had dreams,’ they answered, ‘but there is no one to interpret them.’

Then Joseph said to them, ‘Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams.’

So the chief cupbearer told Joseph his dream. He said to him, ‘In my dream I saw a vine in front of me, 10 and on the vine were three branches. As soon as it budded, it blossomed, and its clusters ripened into grapes. 11 Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes, squeezed them into Pharaoh’s cup and put the cup in his hand.’

12 ‘This is what it means,’ Joseph said to him. ‘The three branches are three days. 13 Within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your position, and you will put Pharaoh’s cup in his hand, just as you used to do when you were his cupbearer. 14 But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison. 15 I was forcibly carried off from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon.’

16 When the chief baker saw that Joseph had given a favourable interpretation, he said to Joseph, ‘I too had a dream: on my head were three baskets of bread.17 In the top basket were all kinds of baked goods for Pharaoh, but the birds were eating them out of the basket on my head.’

18 ‘This is what it means,’ Joseph said. ‘The three baskets are three days. 19 Within three days Pharaoh will lift off your head and impale your body on a pole. And the birds will eat away your flesh.’

20 Now the third day was Pharaoh’s birthday, and he gave a feast for all his officials. He lifted up the heads of the chief cupbearer and the chief baker in the presence of his officials: 21 he restored the chief cupbearer to his position, so that he once again put the cup into Pharaoh’s hand – 22 but he impaled the chief baker, just as Joseph had said to them in his interpretation.

23 The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we pray that we would not tire of serving You, whatever the outcomes. When life is going well it can be easier but when there are lots of discouragements we can get weary. Forgive us Lord for our failings and help us to continue to be faithful to You. Grant too that we would have a spirit of gratitude and appreciation to all those who assist us during this journey of life, and not forget what they have done for us. Help us Lord Jesus, to keep our eyes on You and be mindful that You first came to serve us. May Your Holy Spirit empower us to live out our faith in You. We pray this in Your Name. Amen.  

5 March 2019

Genesis 39

Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there.

The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master. When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favour in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field. So Potiphar left everything he had in Joseph’s care; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate.

Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, ‘Come to bed with me!’

But he refused. ‘With me in charge,’ he told her, ‘my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?’ 10 And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even to be with her.

11 One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. 12 She caught him by his cloak and said, ‘Come to bed with me!’ But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house.

13 When she saw that he had left his cloak in her hand and had run out of the house, 14 she called her household servants. ‘Look,’ she said to them, ‘this Hebrew has been brought to us to make sport of us! He came in here to sleep with me, but I screamed. 15 When he heard me scream for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.’

16 She kept his cloak beside her until his master came home. 17 Then she told him this story: ‘That Hebrew slave you brought us came to me to make sport of me. 18 But as soon as I screamed for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.’

19 When his master heard the story his wife told him, saying, ‘This is how your slave treated me,’ he burned with anger. 20 Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined.

But while Joseph was there in the prison, 21 the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favour in the eyes of the prison warder. 22 So the warder put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there. 23 The warder paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.

The story of Joseph moves on quickly. The arrogant, favoured seventeen year old has grown into a responsible man who takes his duties seriously. Like a diligent, gifted employee, he was quickly promoted until he was given the most senior position available to him. He had, perhaps, more than he could ever have imagined, given the circumstances of his arrival in Egypt.

Life, however, invariably throws up curve balls—whether it be disappointments in relationships, retrenchment, illness, bullying, temptations, unfairness in the workplace. The list is lengthy and the effects can be traumatic. Joseph found himself facing one of these difficult times, when he was blatantly lied about by a lusting, self-serving woman who couldn’t get what she wanted. His defining priority was not to sin against God (verse 9) but despite this he was thrown into prison when the lies were believed.

In our current context we are unlikely to be put into prison based on lies told against us, although in recent years it appears that people in our country have lost jobs in government because they refused to be corrupt. Joseph’s story similarly challenges us to be faithful to God, above all else. Whatever the cost.

This chapter, however begins (verse 2) and ends (verse 23) with an almost identical sentence. ‘The LORD was with Joseph and so he succeeded in everything he did.’ Despite his difficult circumstances Joseph was not abandoned by God. In prison, the Lord showed His faithfulness to Joseph, blessing his relationships and using his gifts. As the story unfolds we see how these circumstances were used, step by step, to clearly demonstrate God’s hand at work.

We may or may not hold great responsibility, we may or may not be hugely gifted, but as God’s children we can be assured that our Lord is with us as we journey through this life.  Whatever the circumstances He is working out His purposes.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we thankYou for the story of Joseph and his faithfulness to You in these difficult circumstances. We are mindful that You worked out Your purposes for Your people then, and You continue to work out Your purposes in our lives today. Keep us faithful to You Lord, whatever circumstances we find ourselves in. Thank You for the sure and certain hope that we have in Jesus and that He has promised that He will never leave or forsake us. Amen.

 

4 March 2019

Genesis 37

Jacob lived in the land where his father had stayed, the land of Canaan.

This is the account of Jacob’s family line.

Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them.

Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornate robe for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.

Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. He said to them, ‘Listen to this dream I had: we were binding sheaves of corn out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered round mine and bowed down to it.’

His brothers said to him, ‘Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?’ And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said.

Then he had another dream, and he told it to his brothers. ‘Listen,’ he said, ‘I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me.’

10 When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, ‘What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?’ 11 His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.

Joseph sold by his brothers

12 Now his brothers had gone to graze their father’s flocks near Shechem, 13 and Israel said to Joseph, ‘As you know, your brothers are grazing the flocks near Shechem. Come, I am going to send you to them.’

‘Very well,’ he replied.

14 So he said to him, ‘Go and see if all is well with your brothers and with the flocks, and bring word back to me.’ Then he sent him off from the Valley of Hebron.

When Joseph arrived at Shechem, 15 a man found him wandering around in the fields and asked him, ‘What are you looking for?’

16 He replied, ‘I’m looking for my brothers. Can you tell me where they are grazing their flocks?’

17 ‘They have moved on from here,’ the man answered. ‘I heard them say, “Let’s go to Dothan.”’

So Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan. 18 But they saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him.

19 ‘Here comes that dreamer!’ they said to each other. 20 ‘Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.’

21 When Reuben heard this, he tried to rescue him from their hands. ‘Let’s not take his life,’ he said. 22 ‘Don’t shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the wilderness, but don’t lay a hand on him.’ Reuben said this to rescue him from them and take him back to his father.

23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe – the ornate robe he was wearing – 24 and they took him and threw him into the cistern. The cistern was empty; there was no water in it.

25 As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt.

26 Judah said to his brothers, ‘What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? 27 Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.’ His brothers agreed.

28 So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt.

29 When Reuben returned to the cistern and saw that Joseph was not there, he tore his clothes. 30 He went back to his brothers and said, ‘The boy isn’t there! Where can I turn now?’

31 Then they got Joseph’s robe, slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood. 32 They took the ornate robe back to their father and said, ‘We found this. Examine it to see whether it is your son’s robe.’

33 He recognised it and said, ‘It is my son’s robe! Some ferocious animal has devoured him. Joseph has surely been torn to pieces.’

34 Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days. 35 All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. ‘No,’ he said, ‘I will continue to mourn until I join my son in the grave.’ So his father wept for him.

36 Meanwhile, the Midianites sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for Your word that details the story of Your people centuries ago. We read the story of Joseph and his dreams and see so clearly that arrogance and favouritism were not helpful in family relationships. They fuelled anger, hatred and resentment amongst brothers to such an extent that they were prepared to murder their own flesh and blood. Lord, help us to be wise within the families You have placed us. Grant that we would not favour one person above another. Keep us from being arrogant and deceitful in all things, whatever our place is in our family. Help us, instead, to seek your ways and to love, encourage and build up one another. We commit ourselves to You in this purpose. Amen