Sunday, July 27, 2008

Humanity in Sin Part 59: Jacob’s Death

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev. Dr. Stephen Tong on 6th July 2008 in Newton Life. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: Genesis 49:29-50:14

Jacob also gave Joseph very special blessing. He was the most precious son of Jacob. Although God chose Judah as the tribe through which Christ was descended, Joseph also received special blessings.

Joseph was referred as a fruitful vine. In the New Testament, Christ likened Himself as the vine as well. The fruit is on the branches, not on the stem. Christians ought not to forget that they are but branches. The true quality comes from the stem. The fruits we bear are not our fruits, but the Holy Spirit’s. The fruits are not for us to enjoy only but also for others. They are for God’s glory.

Joseph was portrayed as strong although there were enemies all around him. It is because the Almighty is with him. When Joseph was sold to Egypt, he was a slave. But he did not compromise his faith. His faith towards God is genuine and he knew that God would never forsake Him. Joseph was victorious and strong was because of the Shepherd of Israel. Joseph is different from all his brothers.

He was the prime minister of Egypt and was the only one who married an Egyptian. So his children were not pure Israelites. He was chosen by God and his future would surpass his brothers. Jacob wanted to emphasize that God had blessed Joseph, and that although he was the prime minister of Egypt, the blessings he gave to Joseph was greater than all other blessings he had received.

Genesis recorded only one chapter on creation, but many chapters on people’s lives. From chapter 12 to 50, it is all about 4 persons over 4 generations. This structure represents something important thing. The center of creation is humanity. The center of humanity is God’s chosen ones. The center of God’s chosen ones are those to whom God gave His revelation to guide His people through all generations. In Genesis, they are Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph. Of all the blessings Jacob pronounced on his children, the blessings for Judah and Joseph are special.

After he blessed his children, he asked them to bury him in Canaan, where Abraham, Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca were buried. Joseph was a person who faithfully held on to the promise of God. The Egyptians conceded to his request. Joseph cried for his father for 7 days. When Joseph was about to die, he also asked his brothers to retrieve his remains when God brought them out of Egypt. Like his father, he still remembered the promises of God for Israel.

Humanity in Sin Part 57: Jacob Blessed Joseph’s Two Sons

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev. Dr. Stephen Tong on 15th June 2008 in Newton Life. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: Genesis 48

Joseph never forgot about being filial after he became the prime minister. When he heard that his father was sick, he brought his two sons before Jacob. Jacob considered Manasseh and Ephraim his sons and the rest of Joseph’s sons after that would be his own, so Joseph received double portion of his inheritance. So Manasseh and Ephraim became two new tribes of Israel. The tribe of Dan was missing in the book of Revelation. It was because this tribe worshipped idol and was expelled from the tribes of Israel.

Jacob specially loved Joseph so he established Joseph above all his other sons. Joseph put his elder son Manasseh on the right side of Jacob, and the second son Ephraim on his left side. But Jacob crossed his arms so that he blessed Manasseh with his left hand and Ephraim with his right hand. Joseph was not pleased and tried to correct his father, but Jacob said he knew what he was doing, and would indeed bless the younger son more.

Human beings tend to follow natural status to make decision. But God’s plan often transcends the will of man. Jacob experienced that for himself. Esau was the firstborn son of Isaac, but God blessed Jacob. Instead of just following the natural law, Jacob wanted to bless whom God wanted to bless. Joseph was not able to see God’s sovereign will pertaining to his sons. Based natural law, it should be Reuben who received double portion of the inheritance. But based on God’s guidance, Joseph received it although he was the 11th son. God’s sovereignty was above our freewill.

We need to learn to open our heart to His ways that are above our ways. If God wants Ephraim to be ahead of Manasseh, in the position of Joseph we cannot interfere. If God wants the younger to overtake the older one, we have to submit. His authority cannot be surpassed by any other authority.

God never forbid us to have the desire to do great things. The Lord Jesus said that if we want to be great, we need to become a servant of all.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Humanity in Sin Part 56: Jacob Requested Burial in Canaan

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev. Dr. Stephen Tong on 8th June 2008 in Newton Life. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: Genesis 47

What kind of hope does one have when alive? It was a wonderful thing to be reunited again with a long-lost son who was thought to have died. Very often emotional needs are deeper than rationality.

We are often trapped under temporal sufferings. Very few people can surpass the fragmentary history to see eternal value. From another angle, a culture that has not gone through sufferings is very bland and shallow. The value of human life is linked with sufferings. Sufferings could bring about the greatest blessings in life. A person who has not suffered is a scary person. He lacks empathy towards others and will tend to judge others based on his narrow experiences and self-centeredness.

Often we cannot tell what God has in mind for suffering people. The psalmist said he would wait upon the Lord. After a great calamity, people would often reflect upon their lives. We think that by wealth we can built many things but disasters often remind us that the earth has been cursed since the Fall.

We need to learn the lessons of sufferings. It is better to be envied than to envy others. Nobody envies someone who does not have something better than him. It is better to be maligned than to malign, to be hated than to hate. It is painful to be mistreated, but the person who causes others’ pain is in a more pitiful state, needing sympathy rather than hatred. These are very difficult lessons to learn in life. We need to cultivate a heart that loves God and humanity, have compassion on those who are suffering, and pray for our country and our people.

Jacob rushed to Egypt to meet his son Joseph before he died. He knew the promise land was Canaan, not Egypt. After 3 generations since God’s promise to Abraham, it had not come to pass. It is often difficult to understand God’s timing.

Joseph reported to Pharaoh that his family had come. Pharaoh honored them although that was against Egypt’s culture. Despite the fact that Egyptians despised shepherds, Pharaoh still gave them the best of the land to live in. This shows that Joseph had truly earned Pharaoh’s respect.

Jacob told Pharaoh that the years of his pilgrimage had been few and difficult. He was clear that he was only passing by on earth. No matter how long we live and how much we suffer, we are only guests on earth. His words to Pharaoh represent the lives of Christians. Today we make a lot of mistakes because we treat our temporal dwelling here as our permanent home.

When Jacob was about to die, he told Joseph, “If I find favor in your eyes, do not bury me in Egypt but bury me where my fathers are buried.” Although he was Joseph’s father and could simply command Joseph, he did not use his position to do so. This kind of attitude is often seen in the Bible. Paul did not enforce his authority, but persuade his congregation by the mercy of God to obey God’s commandment. The spiritual people serve fervently but never preach about themselves. The glorious angels cover their faces. The Son of God did not glorify Himself when walking on earth. They want others to see God’s glory, not their glory. Jacob entreated Joseph by reminding him of God’s promise to him. Joseph consented willingly. Even Pharaoh consented to the request as well.

Abraham, Isaac and Jacob received the eternal promise of God with faith. They did not see with physical eyes their descendants inheriting the promise land but they believed. Later on, Joseph himself also requested for his bones to be carried out of Egypt. These patriarchs trusted in the promise of God until their last breath. They are prepared for eternity.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Gospel Rally September 2008

The following link is an informational video regarding the gospel rally that would be run by STEMI Singapore from 11th to 14th September 2008.

The schedules are as follows:

Thursday the 11th
《耶稣是谁?》2008 唐崇荣布道会(新加坡)

Friday the 12th
《耶稣是谁?》2008 唐崇荣布道会(新加坡)Day 2

Saturday the 13th
《耶稣是谁?》2008 Gospel Rally for Children

Saturday the 13th
《耶稣是谁?》2008 唐崇荣布道会(新加坡)Day 3

Sunday the 14th
《耶稣是谁?》2008 唐崇荣布道会(新加坡)Day 4

Do invite your family, relatives and friends to come along.