Sunday, June 29, 2008

Humanity in Sin Part 55: Jacob Went to Egypt

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev. Dr. Stephen Tong on 1st June 2008 in Newton Life. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: Genesis 46

This passage told how Jacob brought his whole family into Egypt. God commanded Abraham to leave his hometown and his father’s household but he did not know where the future would be. This is the principle of faith. We trust in God for our unknown future.

Now God commanded Jacob to go to Egypt. But Egypt was not the promised land. God promised Canaan to them. Jacob went to pray to the God of his father Isaac. God called him that evening, “Jacob, Jacob.” instead of calling him “Israel”.

This is parallel to the New Testament. Jesus gave Simon a new name, Peter. But Jesus still called him Simon. After Jesus gave Simon a new name, there was only once Jesus addressed him as Peter. On the one occasion when Jesus called him Peter, it was through another person, not directly. After his resurrection, he said, “Tell Peter.” But Jesus still called him Simon even in the last chapter of John.

Very often, we already have a new status, but we still behave based on old status. Based on status, we are saints. But based on our own spirituality, we are not like saints at all. Israel means the crown prince of God (Esra El), but in many ways Jacob did not live out his name.

There were 66 people who went to Egypt but God considered Joseph’s family as well, so altogether there were 70 people in the house of Israel. Joseph’s wife was not a Hebrew but by God’s grace, was still included in Israel’s family. Before his death, Joseph commanded Israelites to bring his bones out of Egypt when God brought them out of Egypt because he did not belong there. We should always remember that this world is not our home. We have an eternal destiny so we should prepare ourselves for Home.

Because of Joseph, Pharaoh honored all his family who came from Canaan. The Egyptians detested the shepherds so would not live with them. So Jacob’s family lived in the land of Goshen, where the shepherds were. It is the way the world detests Christians.

After the Pharaoh who knew Joseph died, the people forgot Joseph and started persecuting the Israelites. But God never forget His people. When His time comes, He would deliver His people. Genesis told us the promises of God and Exodus showed how the people of God were delivered.

Humanity in Sin Part 54: Joseph Made Himself Known

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev. Dr. Stephen Tong on 11th May 2008 in Newton Life. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.
Passage: Genesis 45
In this passage, we see how God’s purpose unfolded and we are moved to realize that everything that happened, He allowed for good reason. Like music, we need time and space to understand life. We need time to appreciate the art of time. We need space to appreciate the art of space. But an impulsive person is not able to listen patiently.

Do we know God will lead us and teach us? We are often too anxious and impatient, so we grumble against God when we go through difficulties in our lives. Joseph never grumbled against God. In the entire process, he patiently waited upon the Lord. He suffered great injustice and encountered difficulties that most people could not bear, but he stood firm in his faith.

Joseph never harbored hatred against those who did evil against him. This is an example for us to follow. We cannot fulfill any great things with hatred. God would allow injustices to come. All these things should not result in us treating others with evil motives. If we can understand the spirituality behind these statements, we will become a channel of God’s grace to many people. The bigger our heart is, the more the blessings of God will flow through our lives. The narrower our heart is, the more obstacles there will be.

He put his silver cup in the bag of his blood brother, Benjamin. When he summoned Benjamin, all his brothers were distressed. Judah stood up for Benjamin and offered to take the penalty for Benjamin. After Judah’s words, Joseph could not bear it anymore. He asked all the Egyptians to leave, and cried in front of his brothers. He kept asking them about his father. His brothers were so terrified at his presence that they could not respond.

Joseph told his brothers not to be distressed by what they had done, as it was to save lives that God sent him there. He was very reformed. He knew God as the Sovereign One who planned all things throughout history. However people try to harm us, God’s grace will be sufficient for us. We should see the God’s sovereignty is greater than the will of men. But if we shift our focus towards others’ attack, we are foolish and are carrying a cross that has no reward. We should not partake in whatever that is against God’s will, no matter how others treat us. The plans of men might not come true, but God’s purpose will surely come to pass. Further, we should not be troubled if those who seek to harm us are those who have no part in our upbringing, who have no credit in bringing us where we are today.

Joseph was able to see God’s hand in all that happened and he had a very gracious heart towards those who harmed him. This is very Christ-like. He asked the brothers to go back and bring his father to Egypt. They returned home and told the father that Joseph was still alive. Initially Jacob found it hard to believe as he had been deceived by his sons all his life. But he was finally convinced that it was for real. He was deeply overjoyed and wanted to see Joseph before he died.