SO WE WILL BE WITH THE LORD FOREVER
1 Thessalonians 4:1-18
Key Verse: 4:17,18
“After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.”
MAKE YOUR LOVE INCREASE AND OVERFLOW
1 Thessalonian 2:17-3:13 Key Verse: 3:12
“May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as our does for you.”
Today’s passage is mainly Apostle Paul’s concern, thanks and prayers for Thessalonian Christians who were going through times of trials and persecutions. Paul had three prayer topics; 1) to see them face to face, 2) for their love to increase and overflow, and 3) for their hearts to be strengthened. May God grant each one of us to receive the word of God through today’s passage. Amen.
I. Settle In These Trials (2:17-3:5)
Look at verse 2:17, “But, brothers and sisters, when we were orphaned by being separated from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you.” Due to persecutions, Christians in Thessalonica had to send Paul, Silas and Timothy away to Berea. They felt that they were being orphaned, which revealed their loneliness during the time of God’s work. They had to move one place to another constantly like Missionary Isaac and Mary Baek’s family. How hard it could have been for them to endure?
Even though they were separated, they were in their thought like a lover. Even though their bodies were separated, they were together in their prayer and concern. They wanted to see the Thessalonians like parents who wanted to see their children. They wanted to see them in order to provide anything lacking in their faith. The new believers needed to stand firm going through persecutions. They were being tempted from the influence of the world. Paul wanted to encourage them to love each other in this time of trials, and strengthen them to live moral and blameless lives.
They tried to come, especially Paul tried again and again, but could not because Satan blocked their way. We do not know how Satan blocked his way, but we know for sure that there was hindrance for Paul to go to Thessalonica. According to Acts 17 he was being chased by the Jews from Thessalonica who came to persecute Paul in Berea. Maybe Thessalonian Jews lied to people in Berea so that they would not sell Paul a horse riding ticket to Thessalonica. Paul was afraid that the Christians in Thessalonica were being persecuted and lost. He loved them so much because they were his hope, joy and crown in the presence of the coming Jesus.
MOTHER AND FATHER LIKE SHEPHERD
1 Thessalonians 2:1-16 Key Verse: 11
“For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children.”
In chapter 1, Paul, Silas and Timothy gave thanks for the faith of Thessalonian Christians and their faith in action. The gospel was not just words but came to them with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction as they welcomed the message. Thus they became examples to all other churches in the region.
In this chapter 2, Paul and his coworkers are sharing their testimony on how the gospel was preached in spite of severe persecution in Thessalonica. It is God who enabled them to dare to preach the gospel and to care for the disciples like a mother and father. The work of God was evident that they also could suffer for Christ. May God grant us one word of God through today’s passage. Amen!
I. Approved by God through God’s Tests (1-7a).
Look at verse 1, “You know, brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not without results. Verse
1 is the connecting sentence between chapter 1 and 2. In chapter 1, the gospel came to the Thessalonians not with words only but with power. There was the work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts and some Jews and Greek converts accepted the gospel of Jesus, including prominent women (Acts 17:1-4). In the rest of chapter 2, Paul shares the inside story of how they struggled in doing God’s work in Thessalonica.
Faith, Hope and Love in Action
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10, Key Verse: 1:3
“We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Today we begin to study the New Testament book of 1 Thessalonians. Like Philippians, this is a letter written by Paul and his coworkers to the church that they had pioneered. Thessalonica is a Greek city, as Philippi was. In fact, according to the book of Acts, Thessalonica was pioneered right after Philippi, also on the second mission journey of Paul and Silas. However, most scholars think that 1 Thessalonians was actually written before Philippians, and may even be the earliest book of Paul in the New Testament.
Among Paul’s letters, 1 and 2 Thessalonians are the ones that say the most about Jesus’ second coming. The theme of hope in that event runs strongly through both books. We won’t get into that much today, just to touch on it. The first chapter of 1 Thessalonians, as we saw when we read it, is very short—just 10 verses, and it kind of looks like the standard greetings and thanksgivings that Paul puts at the beginning of every letter. But if we look more closely, there are some very deep themes running through it. There is a special emphasis on faith in action, that is, faith that works and faith that sets an example.
GOD GIVEN DREAM FULFILLED
Key Verse: 41:51-52
Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said, “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” The second son he named Ephraim and said, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.”
Joseph probably had a strong desire to know God. Then God gave him dream. Since then he communicated with God through prayer. The dream God gave him was his Bible. Last week we saw how Joseph was put into a prison. He had been falsely accused and was in a hopeless situation. On the contrary to his dream, the reality was too harsh to Joseph. In that total dark moment of injustice, God was with him. So whatever he did God gave him a great success. We don’t see any bitterness in him. He didn’t sit down. He didn’t feel sorry for himself. He believed that God gave him a vision and God would fulfill that vision. Then he was a light in that dark place shepherding others. There was Lord’s hidden plan as Joseph was going through pains and broken moments. God was forming Jesus’ image in Joseph. We see also Joseph’s godly character when he was rewarded. Finally God raised Joseph as an emperor’s teacher and used him as one part of God’s salvation plan and as an image of coming Jesus. God wanted to use Joseph for His plan. God would make Joseph a prime minister of Egypt for that purpose. Then Joseph needed to have Jesus’ image to be used for God’s purpose. The instrument God used to build godly characters in Joseph was sufferings. When I turn my eyes from Joseph to Almighty God I boldly declare that you can be like Joseph with much suffering when you hold fast Gospel and God’s promises in Bible. It is God, who planned Joseph’s life, dreams, sufferings, 7 years of abundance, 7 years of famine, prophetic wisdom, for His salvation plan. May God make Joseph’s extraordinary life to be yours! May God make Joseph’s extraordinary life to be mine!
I. Joseph in prison (40:1-40:23): God’s character when you are in trial.
When he had to be rewarded for his honest, faithful, and good work, on the contrary Joseph was put in a prison. His integrity was damaged. He was treated as a criminal. In that critical moment, he believed in God. He trusted God. There is God, who sees the thoughts and hearts that are not seen. Joseph was not overcome by darkness. What made Joseph special? There are many books in book stores that inspire us. Sometime those books help us like a book review we had some time ago. But we become thirsty again. We feel our way in dark again and often. However, Joseph was different. He had never been overcome by the power of darkness. We want to skip Joseph’s story because he looks a superman. I find a secret. I give a deep sigh of relief. He was weak as we are. He was also human as we are. There was only one special thing in him, just one. So you may be sure that you can be like Joseph too. I find that secret in 39:21, “the Lord was with him.” Even the Pharaoh in palace was in darkness spiritually. However, Joseph had a light even in a dark dungeon. The Lord was his light. Let the Lord be your light. Then you can be like Joseph whatever reasons you have to make you stumble. Joseph treasured the God-given dreams. It seemed his dream was gone in a prison. It seemed he was lost. That was not true. Joseph held fast God. Then the light shone in him. There was God’s plan that Joseph didn’t know. The light in him shone the people around him and dark human history. Let’s see how God uses the person whom He is with.
“Some time later” in 40:1 refers to 39: 23, “The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the LORD was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.” Joseph became a prison manager. It is God who gives you success when your hearts are right. It was just right time that God put Joseph in a prison. Joseph would not do it voluntarily. There were two purposes in God’s plan. Firstly, Joseph needed more training to have Jesus’s heart. Secondly, Joseph needed to meet two very high officials to become a prime minister later. If any of you have been going through pains, see God behind your pains and broken hearts.
What happened? 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. In ancient time, the cupbearer and the baker were not simply chaffs or butlers. They were very high ranked officers. They were responsible for king’s food. They could put a poison in a food to kill a king. So a king assigned a highly trusted person to that position. This was not just a coincidence that very high officials came to Joseph’s custody. No, God planned it. God was in control of Joseph’s life. God is in control of my life and your life when you remain in the true vine, Jesus Christ.
After these two officials 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?” Joseph’s happy life was destroyed by his brothers. When he had been honest and loyal to his master, he was falsely accused and put in a prison. He had many reasons to be dejected and sad. But instead of being dejected, he was caring for the people in the same prison. Again Joseph was not a superman. We become like Joseph when the LORD is with us. How can we be with the LORD? Jeremiah 29:13 says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Matthew 7:7 says, ““Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Luke 11:13 says, “If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Many seek different things, such as human ambition, human recognition, small benefits, or solutions to the problems. What was the difference between Joseph and others? Joseph sought God. Joseph cherished God-given dream. That formed godly characters in Joseph’s heart. We have to seek God more than anything else. We have to seek to be like Jesus more than anything else.
The cupbearer and the baker answered to Joseph’s question, “We both had dreams but there is no one to interpret them.” They had dreams every night. But they felt that the dreams that time seemed very special. God’s finger disturbed their hearts. Then Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams.” God gave two officials the dreams that would happen to them in 3 days. Since God revealed the future things to them, only God could know what the dreams meant. What does Joseph’s statement show about right attitude toward God? First, God revealed two official’s futures through their dreams so that Joseph might interpret their dreams. At Joseph’s time there was no written Bible. Now we have Bible. The Holy Spirit guides us to interpret God’s word. When we understand the word of God by the help of the Holy Spirit, we know our way. We can also guide others to the way of life. God uses the person, who is full of the Holy Spirit, to teach God’s way to the people. When we study God’s word or stand on the podium in a church we have to ask God to empower us with the Holy Spirit.
Second, Even though interpretations belong to God, God used Joseph. Joseph could use that opportunity to magnify his name. But Joseph only revealed God’s name. Another good example is John the Baptist, who acknowledged himself as just a voice of Jesus. Sometime we are tempted to show up or boast ourselves about something we do. What is the warning Bible gives? Matthew 6:1 says, “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” Seeking self-glory is most foolish because there is no reward in heaven except for sinful humans’ praise. That’s all. When we were in Wilmington NC, our house church was once full of Bible students in Sunday worship service. David Johnson and I prayed to hold Genesis Bible Academy in the biggest hall of UNCW and fill all seats. I sought self-glory and was proud. I even challenged Chicago UBF. Then there was storm and all were scattered except for David and Taylor. Later I lost them also. This is a life giving lesson now to me. If I had been mature spiritually and sought God’s glory only, Taylor and David both would be pioneering ministers now; Taylor as a medical missionary and David a Wilmington UBF pastor. David was full of God’s grace and zeal when he confessed and repented his past sin. God’s grace in him was much bigger than his forgiven sin. Wilmington ministry could have been fired as much as that in El Camino through one person David Johnson if I knew Jesus. I was a sinner who quenched the fire of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit convicted me of my sin. I was the person who would go to hell when I thought I was a missionary. I asked forgiveness of my sin to God and also to David Johnson. I called him yesterday. David has a good heart. He remembered many good things with us. He is a good man. We will continue Bible study by skype. Today is happy day since I see Jesus through my repentance.
Third, Joseph believed that his previous two dreams were given by God and would be fulfilled even though he was in a prison. Joseph’s willingness to interpret their dreams means that he has not yet given up on his own dreams. Even though many years have passed, and he has endured the pain of rejection, enslavement, false accusation and imprisonment, down deep inside he still believes that one day God will cause those early dreams to come true. Otherwise he would have said to the men, “My advice is to forget about those dreams. They don’t mean anything. I had dreams of my own once, and look where I am now.” But he didn’t say like that. If you are overcome with self-pity or discouragement, remember Joseph and look around you to the needs of others. Joseph didn’t allow discouragement to stop him from believing God-given dream and from caring about others.
So the chief cupbearer told Joseph his dream. Joseph’s interpretation was good news to him. He would be recovered to his position in three days as he had been. Joseph asked him, “When all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison. 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.” Here we see Joseph’s human side. Even though Joseph was a remarkable young man, he was also human. He had his hopes and dreams. He wanted to get out of dungeon as soon as possible.
When the chief baker saw that Joseph had given a favorable interpretation, he told Joseph his dream. This was a big challenge to Joseph. Joseph knew what his dream meant. It was bad news. Joseph interpreted his dream as God told him. The chief baker would die in three days. It was difficult to say such bad news. Joseph didn’t hide truth. One of the works the Holy Spirit does is to convict our sin. When the Holy Spirit is in us we can confess our sins and repent our sins. True repentance is not a lip service but should be practical as John Baptist told the people, when they came to him in the wilderness. Then we can deliver the message of God’s salvation and also God’s judgment to the world. Those, who are cleaned by Jesus’ holy blood through true repentance, can be the witnesses of the word of salvation and judgement.
The things became true as Joseph told to two officers. This seemed to be a good chance for Joseph to get out of a dungeon. What happened? Look at 40:23 and 41:1a, “The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him. When two full years had passed….” The chief cupbearer totally forgot Joseph. Nothing happened to Joseph. Joseph thought that this man was a ticket to get out of a dungeon. But the man totally forgot Joseph. Joseph had to wait two more years in a dark dungeon. On one hand, he is faithful and ready to serve God where he is. On the other hand, he doesn’t want to stay in prison forever. Waiting is painful. Waiting is perhaps the hardest discipline of the Christian life. Warren Wiersbe says in his book “Be Authentic, p111”, “God permitted Joseph to be treated unjustly and put in prison to help build his character and prepare him for the tasks that lay ahead. The prison would be a school where Joseph would learn to wait on the Lord. … He would learn that God’s delays are not God’s denials.” We see in Chapter 41 that two years later his request will lead to his release.
I had prayed for Charlotte NC for long years. I declared a big mouth of establishing a world mission center in Charlotte NC. Since I am a tent maker missionary, I was waiting for a job opportunity in Charlotte NC. But instead I came to DuPage area. I felt dying when I came to this area even though a job pays more than GE Hitachi. My dream was to see God’s glory. God saved me through Genesis 40 and 41. What God did for Joseph was to form godly character and Jesus’ image in him so that God could use him for His Salvation He had planned since Adam’s fall. My family faced several times at dead ends. Whenever I thought it was the end, God saved me and my family. What do sufferings mean to godly people? God wants to form godly characters in them. What I now desire to have is not Joseph in an emperor’s chariot but Joseph a small Jesus. Not work, not achievement but Jesus’ image is what glorify God.
II. Joseph became a second man in Egypt (41): God’s character when you are rewarded.
Let’s see how God is working for His plan and for His people. We will see Joseph’s integrity and God’s character when he was in prime time. Keeping integrity and godly character in the time of extraordinary success may be more difficult than in the time of trial. Joseph would be elevated out of a pit to become one of the most powerful men on earth in the ancient world. It happened on just another dungeon day for Joseph. Everything was same. That day was same as the other days for two years. There was one thing that Joseph didn’t know. The night before God gave Pharaoh two dreams. Both dreams had different forms but had the same meanings. In his dream he was standing by the Nile. 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 riverbank. And the cows that were ugly and gaunt ate up the seven sleek, fat cows. Then Pharaoh woke up. Verses 5 – 7 tell us that when Pharaoh fell back asleep, he dreamed the same dream again, only this time it involved heads of grain instead of cows. Verse 8 says, 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.
Boom! God inspired a cupbearer. The light clicked on for the cupbearer. Verses 9 through 13 describe the cupbearer’s testimony about a Hebrew young man he met while in a prison a couple years before, who accurately interpreted his dream and that of the former baker. This was exactly what Pharaoh wanted to hear. 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. Think of that moment as Joseph walked into the place of power.
Pharaoh addressed the prisoner that he had had a baffling dream and that he heard reports of Joseph’s ability to explain it. Here we learn from Joseph godly character, God wants us to have, “Promote God, not yourself.” I found a good expression from one pastor’s sermon. I borrow it here. [Stand there with the broken man, Joseph. Pharaoh has rolled out the red carpet for him. This is the golden moment for our mistreated, maligned friend to strut his stuff. If he was appearing on The Apprentice, this would be his chance to win the big guy over, to exude self-confidence, to manipulate the situation to his favor, to promote himself. This is when fear can make you desperate: “I’ve got to convince Pharaoh that he needs me here in the palace. I can’t go back to that dungeon again!”]
What did Joseph do? How did he handle that moment of opportunity? Look at verse 16, ““I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires.” Joseph answered Pharaoh that it is God who gave Pharaoh that dream and would tell the meaning of that dream. Even when he gave the meaning of the strange dreams of this pagan king, Joseph constantly gave God the credit. He determined to point this human king to the King of all kings. Then in verses 33 through 36 he offered the counsel to Pharaoh. Joseph’s point was to select a discerning and wise man, and set him over the land of Egypt. Joseph didn’t try to persuade Pharaoh that he was proper person. He wasn’t selfishly ambitious. Joseph knew that God has His way, His time, and His purpose. Joseph only waited to see how God would work. He knew that next step was on God but not on him. James 4:10 says, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
What happened? Look at verses 39-45, “Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. 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.” So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.” 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 around his neck. He had 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. Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I am Pharaoh, but without your word no one will lift hand or foot in all Egypt.” 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.”
Joseph was all of sudden raised to the power. When Joseph got the power there were two people who were afraid of Joseph; (1) the captain and his wife and (2) the cupbearer. However, there is no mention of them. Joseph knew that God was in control of all of events. Instead he used the power to save people and to make Pharaoh rich. God wants to give the power to such a person. For this purpose God had given Joseph pain, humility, sorrow, and sufferings until Joseph became like a small Jesus. Look at verses 51 and 52, “Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said, “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” The second son he named Ephraim and said, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.””
Vance Havner says, “God uses broken things. Broken soil to produce a crop, broken clouds to give rain, broken grain to give bread, broken bread to give strength. It is the broken alabaster box that gives forth perfume. It is Peter, weeping bitterly, who returns to greater power than ever.” (Leadership Vol. 4 by Torkom Saraydarian)
Some of you may be once broken. I am. My wife was broken by me, a broken man. Some of you may be waiting for LORD to get out of uncertainty, or misery, or pain, or broken heart, or wound. Only God can bring you through and out of the dungeon. Only God can reward your faithfulness. Remember Joseph. God used Joseph’s broken heart. Joseph’s trials were not accidents. God was watching over Joseph. Trials, Joseph had, were necessary to build godly characters in him. I want to mention that Joseph was not special but God is Almighty, who gave Joseph dream. What was excellent or extraordinary in Joseph? Joseph held fast the dream God gave him even in impossible situations. Only God can reward your faithfulness. So when it comes, don’t pat yourself on the back. Be grateful, not proud. Joseph went through the fire faithful to God and he came out with a character purer, stronger, ready for the assignment God had in store. God’s promises are just as real today as they were for Joseph. His grace is still work. You can trust Him. There is choice for you only: First, you can sit down bitterly. Or second, you can hold God’s promises and do your work faithfully trusting God. Are you once broken? Give thanks to God. God uses a broken heart to understand Jesus’ broken hearts and to build godly character in you as long as you trust God. My point is that Joseph’s extraordinary life can be yours today.
Do you have God-given dream? Have you been broken? Hold your God-given dream, which is Gospel and God’s promises in Bible. Pray and be faithful to God even though reality seems to betray you. Even though you are in pain now, hold your God-given dream and live in the level of God -sized dream.
When Jesus’ image is formed in you through enduring pain and waiting for God, God will use you like Joseph. Are you in pain? Smile, be joyful, strengthen your feeble feet, and move on. When you are rewarded, remember Joseph. Be faithful all the more.
JACOB’S BLESSINGS AND GOD OF JOSEPH
Key Verse: 50:20
“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”
Thank God for blessing our Genesis Bible study with the presence of the Holy Spirit. God has touched the hearts of many listeners. During Genesis Bible study, so many things have happened among us and through us, especially helping each one of us to see our life in God’s sovereign plan. May God bless us to bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit inside and out as Joseph did. May God continue to bless us with his abundant words as we study the books of Philippians and 1 and 2 Thessalonians. Amen!
Today’s passage is the epilogue of Genesis. Jacob is blessing Joseph’s children and his own sons. Joseph is helping his fearful brothers to know who God is and what hope they should have. Truly God raised Joseph, the fruit of three ancestors of faith, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. May God grant us the word of God through this passage. Amen!
I. Jacob Blesses Joseph’s Sons, Ephraim and Manasseh (48:1-22).
Look at 48:1, “Some time later Joseph was told, ‘your father is ill.’ So he took his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim along with him.” Joseph visited his father who was ill with his two sons, probably thinking that his father would pass away. Jacob sat up and saw his grandchildren and remembered the promise of God, who told him, “I am going to make you fruitful and increase your numbers. I will make you a community of peoples, and I will give this land as an everlasting possession to your descendants after you.” Based on this promise, Jacob believed that Joseph’s two sons should be reckoned as his own sons. This meant that Joseph would be blessed twice as much as his brothers. Just as Jacob blessed Joseph’s two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, they received an inheritance together with their uncles; you can read it in Joshua 16.
What a blessing! What a happy father Joseph was! And Joseph expected Jacob to bless his firstborn, Manasseh, more than his second son, so he placed Manasseh on Jacob’s right and Ephraim on his left. But Jacob crossed his hands as he was blessing, putting Ephraim ahead of the firstborn, Manasseh. Joseph tried to move his father’s hands, but Jacob refused to do so. Here we learn that God’s work of blessing does not work according to human ways; God’s plan will be fulfilled according to God’s sovereignty beyond human understanding.
How did Jacob bless Ephraim and Manasseh? Look at verses 15-16. In his blessing, Jacob remembered the God of his fathers, Abraham and Isaac, who was his God as well. God is the same yesterday, today and forever. The God of Abraham and Isaac is the same God who had been with Jacob and would be with Joseph’s children. As God was his shepherd, Jacob prayed that God would be their shepherd as well. As God sent an angel and delivered him, Jacob prayed that God would deliver them from all harm, bless them, that they would be called by his name, and that they would increase greatly.
Here we learn the importance of remembering the God of UBF history. As we pray for the World Mission Report, I remembered the God of UBF ministry. God has blessed UBF ministry through deep Bible study and raising disciples of Jesus through 1:1 Bible study, accompanied by sacrificial lives for Jesus’ world mission command. May God help us to keep the God of UBF and hand this heritage down to our next generation. Amen!
Here we also learn from the life of Joseph. Joseph was such a great man of God. We cannot find any fault except when he was young, he was immature and naïve. He resembles Christ the most as a human being. Joseph became a single seed that fell to the ground and sprouted two seeds, Ephraim and Manasseh. In fact, he bore the fruit of all his brothers, their spiritual change. He planted the seed of God in Egypt. (John 12:24) He produced much fruit inside and outside as well, many seeds. This was the life of Jesus. Jesus was a single seed who died and produced many disciples. This was life of Mother Barry, who came to Korea and gave her life to raise disciples among Koreans, beginning from Dr. Samuel Lee, and bore many fruits, including you and me. I pray to follow the way of Jesus, the way of the single seed, raising American leaders. Amen!
II. Jacob Blesses His Sons and Makes a Pilgrimage (49:1-50:14).
Jacob knew that his time on earth is up soon and gathered all his sons and blessed them. Hebrews 11:21 says, “By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.” Through the history of Israel, we know that Jacob had prophetic insight through the help of the Holy Spirit. Interestingly, however, Jacob’s blessings for his sons are related what kind of life they had lived before. There are basically three different categories; the cursed, the blessed and the natural. The first three sons were cursed. Reuben was a good man. At the beginning, Jacob blessed Reuben that he will excel in honor and in power as a first born son, but no longer because he defiled his father’s bed, destroying the order of the family. He lived according to his personal feelings and made his father shameful. Simeon and Levi are weapons of violence. They will be cursed due to their violence and thus will be scattered and dispersed. What Jacob said was a curse instead of blessing according to what they had done before.
However, Jacob blessed Judah and Joseph abundantly. Was Judah a man of God from the beginning? No, we know what a terrible life Judah lived in chapter 38. He was very selfish, heartless, pleasure seeking, and irresponsible. But he did not remain that way. Since Tamar’s faithfulness convicted him, he was changed to be sacrificial, compassionate and responsible. He became a trustworthy man to his father who asked him to go and get directions to Goshen for all his family members. Jacob blessed Judah to be like a lion King. The scepter will never depart from him, the ruler’s staff will never depart from his descendants, which is the prophecy of having kings among his descendants, especially sending the Messiah, King of kings. Jacob blessed him abundantly in every way, with health and wealth.
Jacob also blessed Joseph abundantly, that he will be a fruitful vine, bearing much fruit. Archers attacked and shot him with hostility, but his bow remained steady. He was attacked a lot by his brothers and by an evil woman, but he was never broken. He endured all trials and hardships by the help of the Shepherd and became a source of blessing to all people. He was like a deep spring gushing life-giving water to all the earth. God sent Joshua through the line of Joseph, leading the people of Israel to the Promised Land.
Here we learn that God will repay people according to what they have done, whether good or bad. God’s salvation is based on God’s mercy and grace to those who repent and accept Jesus as their savior, but God’s blessing is based on what they have done. Even though Lot was called a righteous man and saved from the destruction, what was the result of his life? What kind of life did he live? If we seek God’s blessing, we must live a life worthy of God’s blessing. Just as Judah was changed, our inner man must be changed and sanctified through the living word of God. If we want to receive the blessing Joseph received, we should imitate the life of Joseph who lived with his God-given dream, serving others whether he was a slave or prisoner.
What about the other sons? Jacob blessed Zebulun to become a haven of ships, living by the seashore on the border of Sidon; Issachar, like a donkey, submitting to forced labor; Dan, a snake by the road side, biting others. Jacob prayed for God’s deliverance for him. Jacob continued, saying that Gad will be always fighting with others, being attacked and attacking; Asher, a good cook, making delicacies worthy for a king; Naphtali, a doe with beautiful fawns. They were like the nameless disciples, whom we do not know what they had done, though they were used by God preciously for the kingdom of God.
Jacob blessed each of his sons in different ways. Likewise, God blesses people not all in the same way but in the way appropriate for them. It is the same way in the body of Christ. There are many different parts in one body. God has given each one a different talent to be used uniquely and preciously. Jesus is the head of our church body. An eye cannot despise a foot, and not everyone can be an eye either. If everyone wants to be an eye, who is going to be hands and feet? May God help each one of us to be thankful for what God has blessed each of us with and use it for the body of Christ preciously. Amen!
After blessing all of his sons, Jacob made a very important request. Look at 49:29, “I am about to be gathered to my people. Bury me with my fathers in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite.” Since Jacob was a father of the prime minister of Egypt, he could have been buried in one of the Pyramids. Instead, he wanted to buried in the cave Abraham bought in the land of Canaan. It was because he never forgot his identity, chosen by God. He wanted to remind his children of the promise of God. In order to do bury Jacob according to his request, they had to go back to the Promised Land. Though their lives were comfortable at this time, they needed to not only remember but also teach their children that they needed to come back to the land God promised to give them. It was a visual learning experience for the next generation. It was a short pilgrimage to the Promised Land.
How can we apply this to ourselves today? While on earth, God wants us to remember God’s promise. That means we need to remember the truth, not compromising with the value system of this world but holding on to the truth and living according to the word of God. What is our promised land? It is not an earthly land but a heavenly one. God does not want us to live in this world comfortably but to remember that our true land is not on earth but in heaven. Often troubles come into our lives so that we know the world is not our home. As Jacob saw his life as a pilgrimage, a Christian life is a pilgrimage to the true Promised Land, heavenly kingdom. As citizens of the kingdom of heaven, may God bless us to live in this world righteously, building right relationships with God and with others through the power of Jesus’ love. Amen!
III. God of Joseph and Joseph’s Hope (50:15-26).
Why did Joseph’s brothers become fearful after their father’s death? Look at 50:15. “When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, ‘What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?’” They thought that Joseph was holding grudge against them. It had been their mentality while living under Joseph’s provision. It was because they did not accept Joseph’s words in 45:4-7. They did not accept Joseph’s forgiveness and fully forgive themselves either. They were still living under a guilty conscience and self-condemnation. Due to unforgiven and unforgiving hearts, they had been suffering all these years.
Even though Joseph had tried to be free them from their guilty conscience, it still remained in their hearts. It was revealed when their safe harbor, their father, died. They thought that Joseph was going to get revenge now. So they made a story up that their father left his will for Joseph to forgive his brothers. While making up their story, however, they were confessing their sins. How miserable they were! How happy they could have been if they had accepted Joseph’s words about God’s sovereignty in Joseph’s life and in their lives!
When Joseph heard about it, his heart was broken. When they came to him, he helped his brothers again. Look at verses 19-21. “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.” There are several ways Joseph helped his brothers. First, “Don’t be afraid.” Their fear came when they did not depend on God but on their father. So when they lost their father, they had nothing to depend on. When they had nothing to depend on, fear came in to their hearts. In fear of losing their lives, they began to lie. Here, “don’t be afraid” means “do not live before people but before God.” Don’t fear Joseph, but fear God. When we fear God, there is nothing to fear.
Secondly, “Am I in the place of God?” Joseph was teaching that only God can judge and punish, not him. They should have repented their sins before God and received forgiveness from God. God is the ultimate judge who knows each man’s heart and life. When they did not repent their sins before God and constantly lived before Joseph, they were piling up sins against God by lying after lying, making use of father’s death as a scapegoat. They should have lived before the ultimate judge. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.
Another good example is King David, who lived in the fear of God. Even though he had a chance to kill King Saul who was chasing after him due to jealousy, he did not. His conscience was stricken when he was just cutting the edge of his cloak. He left the judgment to God’s hand though he had to suffer for a long time.
Thirdly, God is good. He said, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” Since they did not live before God, they did not have any relationship with God. They did not know who God is. God is good. God has been good to Joseph in spite of trials and hardship. So God’s plan was good for Joseph, and it was for the saving of many lives, including theirs. They should have seen their lives in God’s good plan. If they accepted God’s good plan in their lives, they would be truly thankful and even participate in saving of many lives.
What is God’s good plan in your life? Did God save you from your sins in order to harm you? God gave his only and only Son to save each one of us while we were still sinners. There must be God’s good plan. Philippians 2:13 says, “…for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” How can we find God’s good and specific purpose for each one of us? That is a good question to ask God, who knows and able to tell each one of us. No matter what that specific plan may be, it is related to the saving of many lives through the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is God’s ultimate plan for world salvation work.
Fourthly, reassure the brothers. So he said, “So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” For the fearful brothers, Joseph patiently promised again to assure them of their provision, and he spoke kindly to them. Joseph’s action reminds me of Jesus who taught his death and resurrection to the fearful disciples again and again.
Finally, Joseph planted the hope of God. Look at verses 24-25, “Joseph said to his brothers, ‘I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God will surely come to your aid, and then you must carry my bones from this place.’” Joseph knew God’s plan given to Abraham that they would be enslaved and mistreated in Egypt but God would punish the nation and bring them back. (Ge 15:13-14) So he planted the hope of God in the hearts of his brothers and their descendants. It would not happen right now, but in the future, in God’s time. With this hope, his brothers could prepare by planting the hope in the hearts of their children for God’s time. When the time comes, they could be ready. After 430 years, however, only a few of them were ready. They were Moses, Joshua and Caleb.
This reminds me of the parable of ten virgins in Matthew 25. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones took their lamps but did not take any oil with them. The wise ones, however, took oil in jars along with their lamps. When the time for the bridegroom came, the five wise virgins could go with the bridegroom because they had oil to light the lamp, but the other five foolish ones could not because they did not have oil. Then, what is the oil we should prepare? Matthew 25:13 says, “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” The oil is eyes that keep watching. It is the prepared heart ready to meet the bridegroom. It is the hearts of the people who lived their lives before the judge of the living and the dead so that they are ready to meet him anytime. In fact, we do not know when the time will come. Only God knows. Therefore, we must cleanse our hearts everyday and live before the judge who knows each one’s heart and life. Be ready with the hope!
Through today’s passage, we learned how Jacob blessed his grandson and sons. We also learned how Joseph helped his fearful brothers to the end. Joseph helped his brothers to know who God is. God is the ultimate judge, so they should live before God, not before people. God is good and his plan is good. God has a good plan for each one of us, the saving of many lives. Our true home is not on earth but in heaven. With the hope of the kingdom of God, may God help us to be ready everyday.
GOD REMEMBERED ABRAHAM AND SAVED LOT
Genesis 19:1-38 Key Verse: 19:29
“So when God destroyed the cities of the plain, he remembered Abraham, and he brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot had lived.”
In chapter 18, we saw Abraham’s spiritual growth. Abraham was called a friend of God. (James 2:23; Isaiah 41:8) The Lord and two angels visited Abraham. From his visit, we could learn what it means to be a friend of God. God came with good news, giving him a son by Sarah and the promise of blessings not only for himself but also his descendants. Yet, the blessings would be fulfilled when Abraham directed his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just. God also shared with Abraham his plan to investigate Sodom and Gomorrah, to see whether they should be destroyed or not. Abraham prayed for Sodom to be saved by getting a discount from 50 to 10 righteous people in it. In chapter 19, the two angels visit Lot in Sodom. There is a contrast between Abraham and Lot in these chapters; how they lived and the results of their lives, which warns us what kind of life we should live. We also see that the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. May God help each one of us to receive the word of God through today’s passage. Amen!
Look at verses 1-2, “The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. 2 ‘My lords,’ he said, ‘please turn aside to your servant’s house. You can wash your feet and spend the night and then go on your way early in the morning.’ ‘No,’ they answered, ‘we will spend the night in the square.’” The Lord sent two angels to Sodom and Gomorrah, but he himself did not go with them. The Lord did not have any relationship neither with Lot nor anyone in the town. The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, probably disguised as regular Joes. Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. It was a custom of the time for an elder to sit down and greet people at the city gate. Even though Lot was not respected by the townspeople, he was sitting there. Maybe he wanted to be an elder of the town. When Lot saw the two men, he bowed down with his face to the ground. Then he called them ‘My lords’ and invited them to his house. It seems that he was humble. He showed his respect. Interestingly, however, they rejected his invitation. Maybe it was to test whether Lot was really sincere or not.
What was Lot’s response? Look at verse 3, “But he insisted so strongly that they did go with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, and they ate.” Even though they refused, Lot insisted, and they finally accepted. Sometimes, we need to invite strangers again and again. The bread Lot served was just hard bread without anything else. He had basic hospitality. Though we do not know where his family members were, we know he did not involve his family at all. Maybe it was his best and all he had. Compared to Lot’s serving, in chapter 18, Abraham served his guests with delicious food, beef steak, milk and curds, and lot of bread, involving his wife and his servants.
What was going on in Sodom and Gomorrah? Look at verses 4-5, “Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. 5 They called to Lot, ‘Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.’” The whole town was full of homosexual people, young and old, all insane with lust. Can we justify their actions by saying that they were born that way? They wanted to rape two strangers who just came into town. How depraved people they had become! Animals live according to how they are created, but the people of Sodom and Gomorrah had degenerated from the image of God to lower than the level of an animal. They were full of violence without restraint. It is a picture of the end result of people who reject God in their lives and live according to their sinful nature.
In history such people have lived not only in Sodom and Gomorrah but also in many different places and times of the world. Then people cry out, saying, “Where is God?” when they see unspeakable violence and totally depraved people living in their society, doing crazy and unimaginable things. The history shows this kind of thing can happen to anyone or any culture when they leave God out of their lives and live according to their natural desires.
How did Lot deal with such people? Look at verses 6-8, “Lot went outside to meet them and shut the door behind him 7 and said, “No, my friends. Don’t do this wicked thing. 8 Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them. But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof.” We see the good and bad side of Lot. Lot was good in that he tried to protect his guests though they were strangers, risking his own life. He did not let them do these wicked things to his guests and/or change his mind to join their evil action. He knew that they were doing wicked things, but he made a crucial mistake. In order to appease these wicked people, he offered his two precious daughters to them. I do not understand why. How had he become? He knew that they were doing wicked things, but he could not stand on the truth. He tried to compromise with the wicked. Maybe he feared the crazy people would attack him and his guests. Maybe he was thinking that they would take his daughters and go away happy.
What was the response of the people of Sodom? Look at verses 9, “‘Get out of our way,’ they replied. ‘This fellow came here as a foreigner, and now he wants to play the judge! We’ll treat you worse than them.’” They kept bringing pressure on Lot and moved forward to break down the door.” They did not go away as Lot expected. Their crazy behavior did not subside but inflamed even more. They saw Lot’s hypocrisy. They attacked Lot’s weak point and treated him as a foreigner even though he might have tried to mingle with them. They attacked Lot and his guests. What kind of life had Lot lived in Sodom? 2 Peter 2:7-8 says, “and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless 8 (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard.” Lot knew what is right, but he decided to live in Sodom instead of living in the Promised Land together with Abraham. The problem was that he was miserable, so much so that his soul was tormented by wickedness of the people in Sodom and Gomorrah. Then why did he live there, even though he was miserable? It was the result of many wrong choices he had made. In chapter 13, he chose the land nearby Sodom because it was like the garden of the Lord, well-watered. He did not care for his relationship with his uncle as much as his material benefit. Even though his uncle risked his life in order to rescue him and his family, he left again to live in Sodom. As a righteous man, he should have had a holy desire to live right before God, but he had no strength to change the way of his thought and life. His sinful lifestyle was so strong, overpowering his holy desire. Even though he lived a tormented life, he continued to live in Sodom. Small decisions make a big difference. Maybe he convinced himself that he could live a life of faith all by himself in Sodom without Abraham’s help. Now he was in big trouble, and his compromised life would end soon.
How did the angels help? Look at verses 10-11, “But the men inside reached out and pulled Lot back into the house and shut the door. 11 Then they struck the men who were at the door of the house, young and old, with blindness so that they could not find the door.” The men revealed their angelic power, pulling Lot inside, and they protected him by making the sinful men blind. And they urged him to take everyone who belonged to him out of the city, because the Lord had decided to destroy the people, for the outcry against their sins came up to him. In the middle of night Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were pledged to marry his daughters, about the news of God’s judgment on the people. But they did not take Lot seriously; they thought he was joking. Maybe Lot used to joke with them a lot. It seems that he did not talk to them about God before, so suddenly bringing such a message could not make sense to them. One thing is for sure—that he did not have any spiritual influence on them at all.
With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot to leave the city before the city was punished. Surprisingly, however, Lot hesitated. He did not really take the angels’ message seriously. He did not have an absolute attitude toward God’s message, which was the fundamental problem of his life. This reminds me of the foolish builder in Luke 6:46-49, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? … But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.” Probably, he had too many things in Sodom to leave. He had too many sinful ways of life to give up and did not know how to live anywhere else.
What did the angels do to Lot and his family? Look at verse 18, “When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the Lord was merciful to them.” If I were the angels, I would say, “Are you kidding me?” and just let them do whatever. But the angels forced them to leave the town. It was because God was merciful to them. This tells us that when God forces us to move, it is God’s mercy. By the grace of God, God removed us from our sinful way of life. Maybe someone is praying for us very much. So give thanks to God if God did that for you. Amen!
However, the angels saved them from the immediate destruction but did not bring them to the mountains. One of the angels also gave them a direction to follow on their own. Look at verse 17. “As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, ‘Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!’” There are three things they needed to do. 1) Flee for your lives. They should flee from Sodom; otherwise, they will be swept away. They should flee from their sinful way of life. They should have not lived there anyways. In the same way, God warns us, “Flee from idolatry!” (1 Co 10:14), “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7) in the Old and New Testament. At the final judgment, Jesus warned all believers in Matthew 24:16, “…then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.” Here the mountains represent the place where God dwells. At the end of the world, people will tell us to come here and there to meet the Messiah. But finally there will be no place to go in this world; we must flee to God.
2) Do not look back. They should not look back on their sinful way of life in Sodom. When they did, they would be swept away by the power of sin. In the book of Exodus, this is what the people of Israel did. Even though they saw God’s great work, saving them from the hand of Pharaoh and crossing the Red Sea as on dry land, they constantly complained to Moses whenever they had any small problem, saying, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted…” God had to constantly remind them of what he had done in Egypt and how he had brought them out on eagle’s wings, especially before he gave the Ten Commandments. Jesus also warned his disciples not to look back, referring to their old way of life without God. When we truly want to live a new life, we cannot look back, especially on the life of sin and even self-condemnation. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1) If anyone is in Christ Jesus, he is a new creation. The old has gone and the new has come. In this way, we are being saved and continue to grow in Christ.
3) Don’t stop! Lot must not stop running away from Sodom; otherwise, he will be swept away. This applies to living a life of faith. After we are saved by the grace of God in Jesus, we cannot stop growing in Christ. What if a seed sprouted and then stopped growing? That means it is in danger for some reason. Jesus gave us three reasons why we become unfruitful: when our hearts are still hardened toward God’s word, when we are like rocky soil, depending on emotional feelings of faith, or when we are choked by thorns of worries and a pleasure-seeking life. When we want to change, we must run to the goal. If we stop in the middle, we will be swept away! It means we must continue to work out our salvation, struggling with the word of God.
But Lot still did not comprehend and made excuses, saying, “No, my lords, please! 19 Your servant has found favor in your eyes, and you have shown great kindness to me in sparing my life. But I can’t flee to the mountains; this disaster will overtake me, and I’ll die. 20 Look, here is a town near enough to run to, and it is small. Let me flee to it—it is very small, isn’t it? Then my life will be spared.” Though Lot made such a request in the middle of God’s punishment, the angel granted it to him and asked him to flee quickly. Lot’s reaction depicts a sinful human being who does not want to change fully but as little as possible to move forward. Our God, who is full of grace, waits until we make a small progress.
Look at verses 24-26, “By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land. 24 Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the Lord out of the heavens. 25 Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, destroying all those living in the cities—and also the vegetation in the land. 26 But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.” Lot’s wife also did not have an absolute attitude toward God’s word, “Don’t look back.” She looked back and became a pillar of salt. Figuratively speaking, God wanted Lot and his wife to be salt of the earth, giving spiritual influence and being a preservative in the sinful cities, Sodom and Gomorrah. Jesus also told his disciples, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” May God help us to be salty Christians in this perverse and corrupt generation! How can we be salty Christians? When we have an absolute attitude toward God’s word, we can be salty, sharing the love of God with others and preserving godly values in this corrupt generation.
It is interesting to note that the author made a remark about what Abraham did in relation to Lot’s salvation. Look at verses 27-29. “Early the next morning Abraham got up and returned to the place where he had stood before the Lord. 28 He looked down toward Sodom and Gomorrah, toward all the land of the plain, and he saw dense smoke rising from the land, like smoke from a furnace. 29 So when God destroyed the cities of the plain, he remembered Abraham, and he brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot had lived.” In chapter 18, Abraham prayed for Sodom and Gomorrah, depending on God’s righteousness. Abraham worried about Sodom and Gomorrah all night and came to see what happened. How discouraging for Abraham to see that God had to destroy the land because there were not even 10 righteous people, wondering what happened to his nephew, Lot. But God knew why Abraham prayed for Sodom and Gomorrah. It was mainly for his nephew, Lot. Lot was not a good nephew, taking the better land and leaving the Promised Land. Even though Abraham gave his life to save him, Lot did not show his gratitude in any way or come back to live in the Promised Land again but went right back to Sodom. What a broken heart Abraham had! But his heart for Lot did not diminish; he prayed for him to the end. God did not ignore Abraham and remembered his prayer and saved Lot from the destruction.
Here we learn that God remembers our prayers. This reminds of James 4:15-16, “And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” We are not considered righteous because we did anything right, but because we just believe in Jesus. God saved each one of us, not for our own righteousness but for people to be saved from the eternal destruction through us. May God remember all our prayers and answer in his time, especially saving many lives.
Thank God for answering my prayer for my family members. When I was called to be a missionary, my sister persecuted me the most, saying that I was neglecting my aged parents. When I prayed for my family, my heart was troubled, but God gave me Acts 16:31, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Amazingly, God answered my broken-hearted prayer for them, saving them one by one, beginning from my sister first, then my father and mother, my nieces and even sister-in-law. After 25 years of prayer, finally God opened the heart of my brother-in-law who agreed to go to church last Sunday and pray for me!
Even though Lot was saved, while living in Zoar, he was gripped with fear, maybe nightmares. Then he went to the mountains and started living in a cave. I still wonder why he did not go back to his uncle, Abraham, who would be very happy to have him. Maybe he became too old and stubborn, proud and fixed, to admit his wrong life. In his secluded life in a cave, he might have thought that he would be safe from any problem of the world. But he had children by his daughters who still followed the value system of Sodom and Gomorrah. His descendants became enemies of God’s people and finally were destroyed in due time.
The results of Lot’s life contrast with that of Abraham, showing us that there are two kinds of Christians, Abraham’s kind and Lot’s kind. As we know, Abraham and his descendants were blessed by God just as God promised. Abraham became a source of blessing to all peoples of all nations. His life of faith has been an example for all believers. Those who have the faith of Abraham will be blessed just as God blessed him. It does not mean that he was perfect. But even though he had many ups and downs, he held on to the promise of God. Whenever God spoke to him, he simply accepted, repented, trusted and followed God’s word. Compared to Abraham, Lot did not have the promise of God. So he lived his life not according to God’s promise but according to his feelings or situations. So he was going to places here and there: Sodom, Zoar, and finally a cave in the mountains—everywhere except the Promised Land. May God bless each one of us to live not according to feelings for situations but according to the promise of God.
Through today’s passage, we learned how God saved Lot through Abraham’s prayer. In the light of this passage, we learned how important it is to hold on to the word of God. As we have a key verse for 2016, may God help each one of us to live according to it. As we pray, may God answer our prayer, especially for people to be saved from the eternal destruction. Amen!