Monthly Archives: July 2008

Mighty Mo: MAY I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION, PLEASE!?!

 

(Writer’s Note: The study we did on “What I LIKE about Jesus has generated more comment from you than anything yet posted.  It seems people really enjoy thinking about that subject.  Several have written to me on my email, or spoken with me personally.  They didn’t want to comment publicly and I’ll always respect that.  It’s very obvious that some of you are thinking “outside the box,” though, and that’s good.  Stale, rotten thinking probably leads to spiritual halitosis, or ‘sanctified’ B.O., or some other equally repulsive, offensive odor!  Some of the “commentators” observations are really, really thought-provoking.  I hope you’ll read them as well.  If you click on the icon, you can visit Neil’s and Marie’s sites.  Also, I think it might be worth your while to visit the site by Mark Ryman at GrahamFriends.org,  All are varied, interesting, and scriptural. Most of all, I hope you’ll do your own thinking and research.  You surely don’t want to be “spoon-fed” or simply parrot someone’s thoughts!  Now, DO YOU?   Not when you can do your own thinking and know the discoveries are YOURS.  Fresh.  New.  And personal. You are free, and encouraged, to post your comments at any time on any subject we have been considering.  The broader context for this study is the Book of Exodus, especially the first twelve chapters.  As always, the Scripture is the basis for what we’re attempting. ~dk)            

Here we are continuing our examination of the lives of “God’s Comeback Kids.” 

          At some point, before the “Comeback” could begin, God had to get the “CBK’s” attention.  In Joseph’s case, it must have occurred during some of the long, lonely hours spent in the dungeon in the dark.  In the seemingly endless hours before dawn, many of them perhaps spent in solitary confinement, he must have gained an understanding of God.  That was probably what kept him from going insane or becoming terminally embittered.  Often it was quiet.  With little to distract him, except the scampering of rodents across the floors or the snoring and groaning and moaning, or ‘cussing’ and complaining  of other prisoners in the cells adjacent to his, he probably did a lot of introspection.  In that way he may have acquired a better understanding of how he’d grated on his brother’s nerves.  He certainly, slowly but steadily, began to mature.  He began to conduct himself in a way that caused him to be admired and respected, not considered an aggravating, obnoxious nuisance.

            For Moses, it was that “burning bush”  (See chapter two of Exodus). Whatever you make of it, you need to understand that it is told as truth.  The person who reported the incident evidently believed it happened the way he said it did.  The people of faith who’ve read it all the years afterward obviously considered it to be an actual, factual event.  Their whole belief system was founded upon truth telling, and dealing honestly with harsh reality.  While some of those people, admittedly, were naïve and simple, there have been hosts of brilliantly intelligent and honest people of integrity who have read  believed the account.  They were not “into” self-delusion or fabricating to mislead or deceive themselves or anyone else.  They did not consider this to be a nighty-nite bedtime story for toddlers.  It was not recited, as my children said when they were young, a ‘Once upunce a time. . .” kind of fairy tale or fable. 

           God has gotten others’ attention in other ways.  For the ‘Prodigal Son,’ God got his attention when he had sunk to the lowest level to which a Jew could possibly descend:  working for a Gentile pig owner, “slopping” hawgs.  Can you see and hear him now, and calling his hawgs home for supper!    Sooooo—eeeeee!  Here, piggie, piggie, piggie!  (Both Gentiles and “pigs” were held in complete contempt by the upstanding, law-observing Jewish citizen.).  He was broke, eating what he could swipe from the hog trough, without the owner finding out, when Scripture says: “He came to himself.”  The obvious inference here is that, when he left his Father and Home, he was ‘away from himself.’  He was not in possession of his best senses.  The Bible takes sin very seriously and suggests that it clouds and dulls the senses.  

          At a time when the prodigal was so poor he couldn’t even pay attention, God  seemed to come and say:‘MAY I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION, PLEASE?

 

          Sometimes He’s achieved that objective of gaining someone’s attention through the death of someone important to the person being “paged.”  For example, the prophet Isaiah said:  “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord. . . etc.”  I don’t know what his relationship to King Uzziah was, but through the King’s death  God got Isaiah’s undivided attention.

          You probably have picked up on my line of thinking and have anticipated my asking this question:  “What will it take for God to get YOUR attention?  Your undivided attention?

 Your friend and fellow student, God’s servant  ~donkimrey

 

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MEET MIGHTY MOSES~ANOTHER ‘COMEBACK KID’

(Blogger’s note: Although this site is not commercial, I have requested permission from some online Bible publishers so I could print selected passages in the context in which we are studying.  While awaiting their response, let me tell you there are several of such excellent resources.  So far, I’ve read through chapter eleven of Exodus.~dk)

           Before I began the study of this second of “God’s Comeback Kids,” I saw this sign posted on the lighted billboard of a historic old Presbyterian Church up near my home:  “Don’t be too hard on yourself.  Even Moses was a basket case.”  Arrrrgh!  I agree.  It’s a bit trite, corny, but kinda cute.  While I was considering these very human men, struggling just as we do to find our place,  I came close to entitling my effort “Joe and Moe.”   Not meaning to be sacrilegious by any means.  But trying to see them as men of flesh and bone, subjected to the same fears and doubts, hopes and dreams as we. And discovering, even though they may not have been 100% convinced at the time when God was using them that He really was with them, and really was using them. 

 

          “MIGHTY, MIGHTY MO…”  I don’t believe I said that!  HONEST, FOLKS:   I don’t ever mean to trivialize anything sacred, but I AM trying to humanize these men.  Moses wasn’t always the iconic figure we’ve seen portrayed in the Sistine Chapel.  He didn’t have the advantage of Cecil B DeMille’s movie techniques to make him larger than life with all the awesome visual and sound effects.  He was JUST A MAN.   He was, indeed, mighty and in Jewish history is viewed as the sine qua non.  No other was equal to him; much less did anyone ever exceed his ability, authority and accomplishments.  He’s considered the greatest leader of the Jews.  He founded the nation.  Led the Hebrew children out of slavery and poverty.  All stereotypes aside, that was no small feat.  Through him, God gave the Jewish people the law…the Ten Commandments  . . . which still forms the foundation of much of our own legal system.  But keep in mind the path by which he came to leadership.   

          For some reason, I don’t sympathize with Moses the way I did with Joseph; but God selected him for the special assignment only Moses could carry out.  He’s a man of deep passion.  And compassion.    

          He’s also spent a good part of his life out in the desert.  There he learned survival skills that must have served him well as he led the nondescript, newly emerging Jewish nation during their ambling, rambling, forty-year trek wandering in circles through the desert and right up to the place where he could actually look over into the “Promised Land.”  Again, we’re made very aware of his “humanity.”  Because of an unwarranted and explosive angry outburst toward God, he was denied the privilege of seeing the end result of the journey which he instigated and led. 

           He learned how to live in harsh conditions.  Yet his early training (He was after all, the adopted “son” of Pharaoh’s daughter) was anything but austere.  Perhaps he occupied the position of a prince.  Certainly, he was accorded the status with all the fringe benefits that accrued to that position. Luxurious living accommodations, a privileged education.  Courtly manners.  Could probably work his way up the chain of command and knew his way around the palace, and around town.  He must have had some access to information, otherwise how could he have known where and when to find Pharaoh on the path to his daily bath?   He seemed to have possessed a certain bearing which is unmistakable in a leader.  That early exposure in the Pharaoh’s court must have been beneficial in that regard. And without dwelling on it, we know the teaching and influence of his own Mother left an indelible impression on Moses.  Personally, I don’t believe these things were mere “happenstance.”  When God selects a person for a task, the timing is right.  The selection is correct.  Events seem to converge, almost inexplicably, in such a way that you get the distinct impression that “I know the Lord done laid His hands on” Moses.

           Let’s consider some defining moments in Moses’ life.   I’ll post the Scripture references if given permission.  Otherwise, I’ll simply say where they are located. 

          He killed an Egyptian guard (Exodus2:11-15)  Bare handed.  It’s great that he had a sense of justice.  He was outraged by the treatment the guard gave the slave.  But he took matters into his own hands.  I’m wondering what his options were?  If he had any.  There were no human rights organizations back then.  I don’t know if Moses had any “clout” to get the guard disciplined or punished.  Human life was cheap.  Slaves were cheaper.  Hebrew slaves were really dirt-cheap.  Moses was right to recognize this was wrong.  But was that the only option he had?  Impulsively he reacted without thought.   A friend whom I consulted on this point said it was “righteous rage,” and felt God shared that opinion.  I’m not sure.  All I know is that’s what got him in trouble and the reason he fled with a price on his head.                                                                                                                                                                                               

             Now he’s a fugitive.   Can you imagine!  This guy is the person God has selected to found and lead a nation!  And an APB alert is out.  Perhaps a reward for his capture, dead or alive!  Wanted posters all over the area!  Would YOU select someone like that to lead anyone anywhere!!??  Left town quickly.  Didn’t even pack his toothbrush.  He wants to get as far away as fast as he can.  Bible says he wound up on the “backside of the desert.”  Really out in the boonies.  When he decided to hide, he REALLY hid.        

            There was the incident at the burning bush (Exodus 3:1 and following).  I don’t know what really happened there that day.  But something sure did!  I’ve read a lot of attempts to explain this simply as a natural phenomenon.  The Japanese Maples in my front yard turn brilliantly crimson in the fall.  But I never for a moment thought one of them was on fire.  And the best staffed volunteer Fire Department in the country is across the street less than a hundred yards from my home.  They’ve seen me burning leaves, but none of them ever thought my maple tree was on fire!  It doesn’t seem that Moses viewed it that way.  And, you know, sometimes I’ve found attempts to explain what clearly purports to be a miracle in some way that will make it more palatable to “reasonable, intelligent” minds.  In some cases, I’ve found such explanations require more credulity, more sheer faith than it does to take the reports at face value.  Personally, I don’t have a problem believing in miracles.  To this very moment, I believe God can do what God pleases to do.  If He cannot, then you’ve made Him less than the universe which He created.  If you do believe in God, miracles are not only possible.  They’re probably inevitable.  Every sunrise is a miracle.  Every drop of water.  Every blade of grass.  I understand that some people know how to split atoms.  But they don’t know how to make them.  They now presumably can “clone” animals.  But can anyone make the “stuff” out of which cells are formed and program them so they’ll function as they’re supposed to function?  Can stem cell research produce such results? 

          The episode of the burning bush marks the beginning of Moses “comeback.”   He didn’t even know who was speaking with him from the bush.  He was going about his daily business, and it seems God stepped directly across his path and said: “I have something much more important for you to do.”  That happens.  If it happens to you, some people may doubt your sanity.  And you may, too.  But sometimes there is a growing, overwhelming conviction.  An experience that makes you feel you should “take off your shoes” and that you’re “on holy ground.”   It happened to the Apostle Paul on his way to Damascus.  Sometimes God simply changes our plans, for His own reasons and in ways we cannot begin to explain or understand.             

           I really don’t know if “leaders” are born.  Or made.  I do know that spiritual leaders all  seem to have a sense of being “called.”  And “sent forth” (the word “apostle” means that quite literally, namely: one who is “hurled forth.”).  I know no genuine ones who’ve been made “pompous” by such a call.  And in the event they do become proud, self-seeking and self-serving, the ring of authenticity and God-given authority is erased.  And sometimes they are the last to realize that.   In the case of someone like Billy Graham, in my opinion one of the most convincing evidences of his “call” is his consistent sense of humility.  He’s never seen himself as a ‘great’ leader.  He’s never claimed credit for the astounding success of the simple message he’s delivered.  He has a confidence,  born of his simple, childlike faith in God, but it never even begins to look like arrogance.  He has always kept in proper perspective that his role is simply as a “messenger” and that role is never as important as the MESSAGE. 

          It seems noteworthy to me that most often God has come to man at a time, and in a manner, when it was least expected.   Think about that a bit.  If you were God (we’re just “supposing” now), would YOU have picked such a leader in such a place and in such a way?  With the grand stage for world events wide open and a defining moment in human history about to be launched, would YOU have done it this way?  In other places, God is recorded to have said:  “My thoughts are not your thoughts.  Neither are my ways your ways.  For, as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my thoughts (higher) than your thoughts.”   I rest my case.

           Always, without exception, the “Comeback Kids” are vivid, living examples of the love of God.  His faithfulness.  His grace.  His ability and willingness to use us, even defiled specimens which we may become, to accomplish His will!  Their “comeback” is a tribute to Him, not to them.  

           Something which seems especially worthy of thoughtful contemplation and comment to me is the incident when Moses was giving his excuses about why he (Moses) couldn’t possibly be the right choice for such an assignment.  He began to derogate himself.  “Aww.  Shucks.  I ain’t nobody.  I can’t do nothing.  I can’t talk.  You ought to get somebody else.”  As further evidence that he wasn’t the Sunday-go-to-meetin’ kind of guy, he added:  “I don’t even know who you are.”   The appearance was so unexpectedly abrupt, that God had to introduce Himself to Moses!!  Sometimes, especially early on, the biggest “doubters” are those who later are turned into bulwarks of faith and hope.

           This is what I consider another “Defining Moment” in Moses’ comeback:  God stopped Moses’ prattle with a simple question:  “What is that in your hand?” Evidently, Moses had been holding on to a rod or shepherd’s staff.  Perhaps gesturing with it emphatically as he tried to make his point.  Just a “rod.  That’s all.”   And God told him to “throw it down.”  You know the rest of the story. 

          But have you ever thought about that this way?  The rod was the symbol of Moses’ profession.  As a shepherd, that was one of the main tools of his trade. . . the way he made his living.  Does it take too great a stretch of the imagination to see that God is telling Moses:  “Stop what you’re doing.  Put that in my hands.  Surrender your career.” 

          Now glance ahead and see the role that simple “stick” played as it was now no longer Moses’ rod. . . Instead if was the rod of God!  If God were to confront you (as He’s likely to do any time He chooses), he’d probably ask you the same question:  “What is that in your hand?  How do you make your living?  What is that in your hand?  A stethoscope?  A computer?  Builders’ tools?  A real estate license?  Are you willing to surrender that (and every other area of your life)to my control?  If the answer is “yes,” watch how much more He can accomplish with it, through you, than you could ever hope to achieve without Him! 

HIS servant, your friend and fellow student  ~donkimrey

PLEASE BE PATIENT

          I’M READING, THINKING, PRAYING, AND TRYING TO DIGEST A LOT OF MATERIAL.  THAT TAKES TIME, AS YOU KNOW, AND AS I SAID BEFORE:  “I DON’T WANT TO SERVE YOU A ‘HALF-BAKED CAKE.'”

                  My reading is concentrated in the book of Exodus, and my focus is on Moses, one whom I consider to be one of “God’s Comeback Kids.”  The story of his life covers quite an expanse of information.  As I’ve been doing, I’m trying to find answers to some questions:

1.  How did Moses get into the bad situation?  Who was responsible?

2.  Did he have any options before he took the law into his own hands?  Without much hesitation, he became the soldier’s captor, judge, jury and executioner.  Could he have done anything differently?  Can you imagine yourself in his position as his sense of justice was outraged, his anger boiled over and impulsively he wrung the life out of an official representative of the Egyptian government.  He’d murdered an Egyptian soldier.  In explosive anger, in broad daylight, in front of witnesses!  There’s no mystery to solve here.  No question of “whodunnit?”  He’s clearly the main and only suspect in the slaying, so there’s not even a need for forensic science or a criminal investigation. Fully aware of what he’d done, and probably also aware of the swiftness and harshness of Egyptian justice, Moses ran like a scalded dog.  He got as far away as fast as he could from the scene of the crime.

3.  How did he deal with difficulties while  he was in self-imposed exile?  Literally, “on the lam” from the law.  

4.  What were the defining moments in his life.  What prompted his attempt at a “comeback?”

You know I invite and urge you to participate in this study.  I assume you don’t want to be “spoon-fed” and thus deprive yourself of the excitement of personal discovery.  Use your mind.  Your imagination.  Try to place yourself in the situation.

5.  Are there any things you can learn about dealing with your own problems and opportunities now?  What is your “take” on his life and these event?

I’m also hoping (and waiting) for your thoughts on what YOU “LIKE” about the Carpenter from Nazareth.

His servant, your friend and fellow student~donkimrey

BY THE WAY, I take what you say seriously and honestly feel some of you are far better “teachers” than I am.  I expect more are going to post comments on “Why I LIKE Jesus and the questions about Moses.  I just received a note from Mary Ellen Bowman which meant a great deal to me.  I know her and admire her greatly.  She heads up the Christian Women’s Job Corps in Wilmington.  Her entire life is devoted to finding ladies who are in some kind of difficulty or other and helping them.  Really offering a “hand up,” not a hand out.  She helps them find food, shelter, jobs and self-esteem.  If you like praying for folks by name, include her in your prayer duties.  And, if you have “spare change” lying around that needs to be invested in a worthy ministry, I’ll tell you how to get it to them.  Be sure to see her comments and Ebby’s (God bless her.  What an encouragement she is, and we’ve never even met.).

Why I LIKE Jesus.


(The context for this “study” is the entire New Testament.  And years spent attempting to know Him better.)

          For quite a while I’ve been thinking about why I like Jesus.  I’m not talking about the reasons why I LOVE Him. . . but why I LIKE HIM.  There are things He said and did which I could never attempt, much less accomplish.  He lived a perfect life.  I could never do that.  He never sinned.  That kind of conduct isL impossibly and eternally beyond my reach.  He was perfect in every way.  I don’t even come close to that!  Someone told my wife I was a perfect idiot.  She jumped immediately to my defense and said: “He is NOT! NO ONE IS PERFECT!”    He died for our sins.  He rose again from the dead, and I have no idea how to do that!

          Like I said, there are things about Him that I worship and adore.  But could never achieve with any amount of effort.  What I’m thinking about now, though, are the things He said and did what He did that I really like a lot.  And can probably find them “do-able.”

          One thing is that He loved little children.  And they loved Him.   One day when a lot of people (including children) were pressing in close to hear Him, the disciples tried to “shooo” them away.  Jesus put an abrupt end to that, and told the disciples to allow the children to come as close as they wished.   “They’re the kind of people who populate Heaven.”*   He never told the little children to “grow up!”  Instead, He said: “Unless you (speaking to adults) become as little children, you shall not see (much less enter) the Kingdom of God.”**   Another time, when a crisis developed, Jesus’ disciples panicked because they had a big, hungry crowd on their hands and nothing with which to feed them.  They thought they had a p.r. disaster on their hands.  Jesus calmed them down and asked them to take inventory of the situation.  The “man of the hour” who helped save the occasion was a little boy who offered all he had to help solve the problem: his lunch.  Five little biscuits and a couple of pan fish which his mom, no doubt, had packed for him for his lunch. ***

           I have no idea how Jesus did the things He did.  I know very well I could NEVER come close to accomplishing such feats.  I also know, though, that I can love little children and treat them with respect and kindness.

           Another thing I really like about Jesus is that all kinds of people felt comfortable in his presence.  His critics (check them out) accused him of being a “friend of publicans and sinners.” Riff-raff.  Hoi polloi.  He took that as a compliment, proudly called them “friends.” and later laid down His life for folks like that.  We’re told that the “common people heard Him gladly.”  Obviously, that was because He spoke about things that meant something to them. . . and He did it clearly and simply.  They could understand what He said.  It was so clear.  He didn’t seek to confuse them, or impress them with high-sounding words or lofty phrases or ambiguous ideas.  He didn’t injure their already over-burdened, downtrodden spirit with harsh, judgmental pronouncements.  He didn’t talk down to them or hurl hurtful words at them.  Good, solid down-to-earth people (Fishermen, for example) enjoyed just being in His company. 

           I also like Jesus for the fact that He wasn’t destroyed when He was interrupted.  He seemed not to have a “panic button.”  You see on numerous occasions how people came to Him, seemingly from out of nowhere, and just broke in abruptly on what He was doing (or saying) at the time.  Invariably, He used the interruption as an occasion to bring hope, healing, and “blessing” to the “Interrupter” (If that’s even a word!).

          I’ll need to work on that virtue he showed.  If I’m concentrating on something and get interrupted, I tend to get rattled.  Aggravated.  Agitated.  Out of focus.  Maybe even impatient, touchy or belligerent.  If I acted more like Jesus, perhaps I could see and seize opportunity to do good. . . even if distracted temporarily from something else I happened to be doing and thought was important.  I should at least consider that possibility.

          And I like the way Jesus was unimpressed with power and pretense.  He didn’t hesitate, or weaken His words, even when facing the hierarchical hounds who pursued Him to His death.  The people who ALWAYS felt uncomfortable in His presence were those who were pretentiously pious and equally pompous in their positions.  They were impressed with themselves and strutted with their robes and finery and inflated self-importance and self-righteousness.   Self-seeking, self-serving, arrogant and unconcerned about the unfortunate.  Jesus was unimpressed by people like that, told them so, and deflated their bloated egos like a punctured balloon.  

          He was kind.  He was gentle.  He was rugged, not a sissy.  Definitely a man’s man.  He commanded admiration and respect.  The people who didn’t “like” Him and in fact came to hate Him, were the self-righteous, self-satisfied, self-serving professional religionists.  They were always uneasy in His presence, because somehow they knew He knew them for who they really were.  And did not hesitate to tell them so!                                                                                   

          Taking His life totally, I stand in awe.  I bow in humble adoration before the Carpenter from Nazareth whom I gratefully call: “Saviour.”  But, honestly, I enjoy knowing Him and appreciate the fact that He calls me “Friend.”  I like Him, and wish my life incorporated more of the genuinely warm, gentle, human traits.

          I have a favorite song, which I’ve asked to be sung at any final service marking my departure from this life.  I have hummed and sung it to myself for years and when I’d use it in speeches, I’d attribute it to an anonymous author.  A friend in Atlanta helped me identify the writer:  A Methodist minister, Thomas Obadiah Chisholm, who wrote in the early 1900’s.  Although I do not achieve the objective, his words express my desire.  The melody is inspiring, and some of the words go like this:

I have one deep, supreme desire:  That I may be like Jesus.

To this I fervently aspire: that I may be like Jesus. 

I want my heart His home to be, so that a watching world may see                                                                              

His likeness shining forth in me.  I want to be like Jesus.

Oh perfect life of Christ my Lord. . . I want to be like Jesus.

My recompense and my reward~that I may be like Jesus.  

His spirit fill my hungering soul; His power all my life control.                                                                                

My deepest prayer, my hightest goal ~ that I may be like Jesus.

His servant, your friend and fellow student~donkimrey

(FYI:  A “publican” was a tax collector.  In those days, these guys were despised.  Believe it or not, they were worse than today’s worst They were predators serving a foreign power and sucking economic life from their own people.  They collected the huge tax assessments imposed by the occupying Roman government and “tacked on” their “commissions” which piled even heavier burdens to the Jews.)                                                         Next time we visit, I intend to get better acquainted with Moses.  I’m hoping you’ll take time to become familiar with his life as it is recorded in the Genesis, the book I believe he wrote.  This will continue the examination of the lives of what I’ve been calling “God’s ‘Comeback’ Kids.   We’ll use the same procedures as before, investigative journalism, and asking pertinent questions. ~dk)

 

WRAPPING IT UP

           We’ll never exhaust the possibilities which are contained in any part of Scripture.  The life of Joseph merits close and continuing consideration, and I hope you’ll continue to re-visit Genesis 37-50.  For the purposes of this “study” in what I choose to call “God’s Comeback Kids,” we’re wrapping up our time spent with Joseph of Egypt.  The lessons linger.  The one stated in the last chapter of Genesis is a treasure.  It is a “pearl of great price.”  I’ve never told you anything more true and beautiful.  It is yours now.  Cherish it.  Remember it when your world seems to cave in on you.  It will stand you in good stead. 

           Especially would I encourage you to review the “Key to Joseph’s Comeback.” There’s hardly anything I’ve ever said or read that comes close to the profoundly beautiful statement contained in Genesis 50:17-21.  That statement alone was “worth the price of admission!”   I realize if you’ve been with me from the beginning that sometimes we struggled a bit.  God is gracious, kind, wise, patient, and always present.  I tell myself that and believe it.  I’m convinced of the truth that He does, indeed, intend that all circumstances will ultimately serve a good purpose.  Paul said pretty much the same thing in the sentence we often quote as Romans 8:28.

            SOME OF THE THINGS I’VE READ HAVE NOT BEEN CLEAR OR EASY TO UNDERSTAND.  I’ve read things written by “scholars” and have honestly had to scratch my head at times and ask: “What in the wide world are they talking about?”  It seemed they were more interested in impressing me with their scholarship than in speaking truth plainly.  You’ve had similar experiences, too, haven’t you?  You’d hear a sermon, or lecture, or read a book and it was like slogging in too-large galoshes across a continent of mud.  If what I say sounds simple, that’s what I want to happen.  My feeling is that teaching should reveal, not conceal, truth.

           I’m continuing my personal examination of the lives of God’s Comeback Kids.  Moses will probably be my next focus.  If you’re still with me, go ahead and read and ponder the information you find in the book of Exodus. (I almost slipped up and called it the book of Moses!).  As we’ve done before, I’ll be asking questions which an investigative journalist would use:  namely, how’d he get into such a mess?  What did he do while he was there and how did that affect his emergence from obscurity?   What were the defining moments and events which resulted in his “comeback?”  What does any of that have to do with me here and now?

            I’m always interested in knowing what you’re discovering.  If you study, pray and meditate, YOU WILL Discover truths.  And if you do that, you MUST SHARE what you discover.

            This study of Moses will take me a bit of time.  In the meanwhile, in the next day or two I’m going to post somethiing I’ve been thinking about for a long time:  What do I LIKE about Jesus?  I’m not talking here about what I LOVE and WORSHIP.  Those are things I could never do myself, but there are things about Him which I admire. . . and CAN DO.  Before you hear what I think, may I ask: “What do YOU think?”

His servant, your friend and fellow student, ~donkimrey

JOSEPH OF EGYPT: ENDURING LESSONS

 

(Writer’s note: The broad context for this study is Genesis 37-50.  I’ve read it thoughtfully several times in several translations, and now feel I can draw some conclusions. . . and make some applications.  This is important, remember.  In serious study of Scripture, you must never consider yourself merely an “observer.” You become a participant. If you consider yourself simply an “innocent” bystander…you are NOT Innocent!   Lessons being taught by God are meant to be LEARNED and APPLIED.  ~dk)

 Here are some thiings I’ve learned:

          You don’t know the strength you have until you’ve been tested to the limits of your endurance.  I can only imagine what Joseph (and someone like John McCain*) and others went through when caught in such a trap.  One thing is certain: they emerged with a strength of character that commands our attention and respect.  The grinding, grueling, daily regimen was designed to break the human will, crush the spirit, destroy you.  Those who go through such fiery trials are going to be admirable examples of faith and courage for all who know their ordeal.  Joseph is a great illustration of that truth.

          You don’t really know yourself until you’ve been tested to the extent of your endurance.   Alone?  For endless hours, with no one around for conversation or diversion?  No tee vee.  No gameboy.  No computer.  Rodents and roaches running rampant through the tiny cell.  The groans and moans of helpless prisoners and the stench of close confinement with no ventilation, no sanitation. Nothing but the darkness and your imagination and memories and hope.  And precious little of that.  But hope kept alive, kept them alive.  If he’d given up any time he’d had reason, you’d know nothing of him today. *John McCain would be a MIA, KIA or POW with little to show he was here apart from some souvenirs, fading photographs. Under continuous, enormous, unbearable pressure, Joseph stood strong and unbowed. 

         You don’t know what you really need, until you find you don’t need any thing.  That made me think of a sentence in Scripture which says: “Be content with such things as you have (or don’t have), for He hath said:  ‘I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.’”  It is as if He’s saying:  “If you have Me in your life, you have the greatest resource you could possess.”  Joseph probably had only limited, simple teaching of spiritual things, but he obviously grew to understand only that which is eternal is of supreme value. 

          You don’t understand what “suffering” means until you’ve suffered.   In fact, no matter how hard you may try, you CAN NOT fully understand what you have not experienced. James Stewart of Edinburgh, in a series of sermons on the mystery of suffering, said eloquently:  “You can’t sing Rock of Ages as it should be sung until you’ve felt the foundations quake and shake beneath your feet.”  Without travelling the path he did, how would Joseph ever have come to the place of service he reached?  How could he possibly have empathized with the poor and suffering if he hadn’t gotten a “taste” of what it was like?

Calamity can strike suddenly, unexpectedly, without warning and with sometimes disastrous results.

There is a difference between a painful wound and a fatal one. 

          Suffering can make or break you.  And it is unavoidable.  You won’t skate merrily through life unscathed.  Regardless of what “Tiny Tim” sang, you cannot “tiptoe through the tulips” indefinitely.  The really important, continuing question is not: “Why do bad things happen?”  It is, instead: “How can I respond to suffering correctly?”  The same sun which melts ice cream will harden clay.   It is true, even if perhaps trite, that suffering will make you bitter or better.  It will simply drive you further, and perhaps faster, along the path in the direction toward which you were already heading.  The things which Joseph experienced made him “tough as nails” and as sympathetic, kind, and understanding as anyone we meet in the pages of the Bible.

          If someone needs help, and you can provide it, you should do it.  The last thing Joseph asked after he correctly interpreted the fellow prisoner’s dream was:  “Remember me.”   Free as a bird, the prisoner left the dungeon and promptly forgot Joseph for two years.  Finally, he remembered a promise he’d made, and an obligation he’d accepted. 

          There’s also a lesson in this for parents.  Partialty and favoritism become apparent pretty early.  In spite of the fact that Jacob (Israel) was the Father of the great Jewish nation, he wasn’t always the wisest Dad.   And the other siblings are ALWAYS resentful.  And it appeared to me that Joseph (in spite of his later greatness) was on the route to becoming a “spoiled brat” and a continuous aggravation to his brothers.  Parents cannot escape at least some of the responsibility for the family dynamics and the way our offspring turn out. 

God can teach us invaluable lessons if we allow Him to do that.  But He will always do it His way and not mine.  And on his time schedule.  He doesn’t wear a watch or consult a calendar.

His servant, your friend and fellow student    ~donkimrey

In the conflict with doubt, cast your thought wider and deeper.  Do not let your thought be debased; let it transcend the conditions and limitations of this earth.”   ~Maria Skobtsova (1891-1945) from the book God Seekers. 

          (* Note:  I am not a political activist.  I have never tried to tell anyone what to think, or how to vote.  I do encourage them to do both thoughtfully and prayerfully, but do not ever tell anyone HOW they should do either.   My admiration for Senator John McCain is not a blank endorsement of his presidential aspirations.  He simply has shown to the world that he has the will and strength to “endure hardness as a good soldier.”  And, in my judgment, has more than qualified as a “Comeback Kid!” ~dk)

 

 

Joseph and the Egyptian Vixen

I’M STILL ATTEMPTING TO ANSWER THE QUESTION ABOUT HOW JOSEPH “FELL.” OR WAS SHOVED OR KNOCKED OFF STRIDE.  The Context for this part of the study is Genesis, chapter 39.  I’ve printed most of it below.  ESV

 

Joseph and Potiphar’s Wife

39:1 Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, had bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there. The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands. So Joseph found favor in his sight and attended him, and he made him overseer of his house and put him in charge of all that he had. From the time that he made him overseer in his house and over all that he had the Lord blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; the blessing of the Lord was on all that he had, in house and field.So he left all that he had in Joseph’s charge, and because of him he had no concern about anything but the food he ate.

Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, “Lie with me.” But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except yourself, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” 10 And as she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her, to lie beside her or to be with her.

11 But one day, when he went into the house to do his work and none of the men of the house was there in the house, 12 she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house. 13 And as soon as she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and had fled out of the house, 14 she called to the men of her household and said to them, “See, he has brought among us a Hebrew to laugh at us. He came in to me to lie with me, and I cried out with a loud voice. 15 And as soon as he heard that I lifted up my voice and cried out, he left his garment beside me and fled and got out of the house.” 16 Then she laid up his garment by her until his master came home, 17 and she told him the same story, saying, “The Hebrew servant, whom you have brought among us, came in to me to laugh at me. 18 But as soon as I lifted up my voice and cried, he left his garment beside me and fled out of the house.”

19 As soon as his master heard the words that his wife spoke to him, “This is the way your servant treated me,” his anger was kindled. 20 And Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined, and he was there in prison. 

 

          The Bible states that Joseph was handsome.  He was young.  Obviously very bright. As you probably already know, sometimes such assets can quickly become liabilities.  He rose to favor in Potiphar’s (His owner, the high-ranking Egyptian military officer.) staff, but keep in mind he is still a slave!  He’ll be all right as long as he “knows his place.” And stays in it.  He gets noticed fairly early on, and rises quickly in the ranks.  Potiphar recognizes his ability and promotes him rapidly.

          Notice that a change has been taking place in this young fellow.  He doesn’t seem so cocky any more, does he?  He’s developing a sense of confidence, but not arrogance.  And it shows.  People don’t dread to see him coming like his brothers did.  He’s learning to earn the respect and trust of his colleagues as well as his superiors.  What’s taking place?  Is he, by chance, growing?   Does it seem to you that he’s already learning from his bitter experience?  Becoming more mature?  In that sense, has the brutal experience at the hands of his brothers already begun to mold and shape his character?

          Potiphar wasn’t the only one who took notice of the handsome young Jew.  Spoiled perhaps, Bored, no doubt, Mrs. Potiphar takes notice and shows interest. Before long, she started making subtle moves on Joseph.  Who, you remember is probably in his late teens or early twenties at this time.  He’s a strapping young man.  Red blood and testosterone are flowing freely.  The more he tries to ignore her politely, the more aggressive she becomes. There’s nothing to indicate he’s less than masculine, so my guess is that when a pretty lady starts flirting with him he’s flattered.  As any red-blooded male would be, if he tells truth.  As she “turns the pressure up a few notches,” Joseph isn’t sure what to do.  He’s not dumb.  He knows the possibility of peril as well as pleasure inherent in this “opportunity.”  And, if he has the good sense I give him credit for having, he’s probably a bit “psyched out.”  To put it bluntly:  He’s frightened. 

          Please keep several things in mind as you contemplate his current dilemma.  One is that he hasn’t read “The Ten Commandments.”  They hadn’t even been written at this time.  Moses would not be born for years and his trip to the top of Mount Sinai was generations  and miles away.  So Joseph hadn’t even heard the words: “Thou salt not commit adultery.”  But somehow, somewhere, that information was carved into his consciousness and his conscience.  Please don’t ask me how he knew, because I can’t say for sure.  But he knew what was about to happen ought not happen, and he tried as gracefully as he could to avoid getting further involved.  Remember:  This was not just his boss’s wife.  It was his OWNER’s wife.

          Keep in mind, too, that Joseph probably wasn’t accustomed to well-dressed ladies… Who smelled of sweetly scented, expensive, exotic Egyptian perfumes.  He had sisters who are not named in the Bible story.  And there were probably other cousins and girls whom he knew as grew up.  But they were nomads.  I don’t know if the ladies back there then were all wrapped up head to toe in the kind of things we see nomads wearing today in the Middle East.  But it isn’t likely they were clothed in silk or fine linen, flowing and accenting their female figures.  And I have an idea the females of his acquaintance back then, back when, didn’t take perfumed bubble baths frequently.  They probably had hairy legs and B. O.  BIG time!!  When I thought about the kind of females whom he’d experienced back home, about the only thing I could have added to make them less attractive was seeing them with rotting teeth and dipping snuff and drooling. 

          Now, abruptly, Joseph encounters a well-dressed, probably sophisticated, lady with only seduction and conquest on her mind.  Ninety eight or ninety nine percent of the men I know would have been an easy mark for her.

          I’ve run this episode through my mind numerous times, and always come to the same conclusion:  It was a REAL TEST.  Without being salacious or trying to titillate the senses, there are strong sexual undertones.  Make no mistake about it.  God is not afraid of sex.  He invented it.  He also invented fire.  And butterflies and morning glories.  And hummingbirds and hornets and rattlesnakes, and a host of other things which can be useful or beautiful or absolutely disastrous if dealt with unwisely or incorrectly.  And God expects us to use good sense and judgment in making the right decisions.  His people should always do the right thing, no matter what the pressure may be.  And invariably, there is that inerrant sense that warns when something “just ain’t right!”  We kid ourselves if we try to think otherwise. 

          The thing I hope you’ll keep in mind as you study this situation is that others have had similar experiences.  As far as I can determine in this case, Joseph was absolutely innocent. He wasn’t stalking her.  He wasn’t looking for trouble.  Trouble was looking for him.  If I’ve ever seen an instance in which someone was not complicit, this is it.  He was set up,  He played no role at all in the calamity which was about to strike.

           No matter how he resisted, she persisted and insisted until he finally ran away.  Far from being a cowardly act, that was the most sensible thing a young man could have done. . . given the set of circumstances he was facing at that time.  In some cases, the Bible challenges you to “resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”  Or it encourages you to be strong and StandHold your ground.  In other instances, specifically referring to sexual indiscretion, the Scripture teaches that the best thing to do is “flee youthful lusts.”  Don’t hang around too long to see how strong. . . and WRONG. . . you can be.  Run!  Get away as far and as fast from the temptation as quickly as you can.

          That’s what Joseph did.  The only trouble is, she tried to grab onto his arm and he jerked away. . . leaving his coat.  Thus, he’s now twice brought an entirely new definition to the idea of giving someone “the coat off your back.”  I once read a sermon by an old Scottish minster who remarked wryly: “It’s better to lose a good cloak than to lose a good conscience!” 

          Running away didn’t solve this problem this time, though.  As Joseph fled the scene, the little femme fatale who so recently had been purring like a kitten began to yell like a banshee!  She was a “cougar” stalking young, innocent prey long before it became the current vogue among some older women seeking younger men.  “Boy toys.”   The soft, honey coated voice suddenly turned shrill and rattled the rafters of the palace.  The voice became shrill and harsh, vile with rage and spewing venom.  She even resorts to ethnic or religious insults.  At a very early age, Joseph was about to learn what a poet would pen centuries later;  “. . . Heaven hath no rage like love to hatred turned; And hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.”

          Since she couldn’t have him, she’d have her revenge.  And it was probably only by the grace of God that her false accusation did not cost our young friend his life. 

          Joseph was blind-sided.  Wrongly accused.  Falsely arrested.  Unjustly imprisoned.

          It came down to her word against his.  Whom will the authorities believe?  Whom would you believe? 

          Have you ever been an innocent victim of circumstances? Got pushed, or tripped, or shoved into a bad situation and you got blind-sided and played no role in it?  Someone, perhaps it was even your best friend, lied about you or betrayed you.  That happens.  And there is ample evidence that the male isn’t always the aggressor in male-female exchanges.  When Mrs. Potiphar didn’t get her way, the honey soaked voice turned sour and vile, venomous and vindictive.

          Later that afternoon, Joseph is probably still shaken in his quarters when Potiphar’s guards break in and whisk him off to the “slammer.”  He probably doesn’t even have a chance to speak in his own defense.  No phone calls to his family or his attorney.  In less time than it takes to tell the story, Joseph is thrown into a dungeon.  Potiphar’s guards lock the door and he’s left there in the dark again, alone, with only burning, unanswered questions.

          As night descends, darkness deepens in the dungeon, and Joseph has little or no idea about what has happened, or why.  Much less does he know of the years of loneliness and isolation that will follow.  Nor does he have the faintest notion that from this personal disaster God could use him to build a nation and inspire multitudes after he walks back into the sunlight again, a free man, with finely honed skills, ready and prepared to serve.  And he’s innocent.  Do you understand that!?  He has done NOTHING to deserve the mistreatment being meted out so mercilessly.

          As you can imagine, this incident struck me as being very delicate.  I do not intend to write carelessly or in poor taste.  I AM attempting to view and present the incidents as they actually happened.  I’ve been asking HOW did our friend get into such a mess.  In my own case, I can’t think of many instances in which I’ve been an “innocent bystander.”  Usually, I played some role in getting myself estranged from God or away from His fellowship. More often than not, my dilemma has been a mess of my own making!    But this young man did nothing wrong.  NOTHING.

          Joseph showed incredible self-restraint and integrity.  From the brash young man whom we met not too long ago, we see a man beginning to emerge. I do not doubt that someone, someday, somewhere will read this and KNOW this lesson was meant as God’s word to  you.  My sincere prayer is that you’ll discover the “key” to survival as Joseph did, and that this study will be hopeful and helpful. 

          A point I think we should consider very carefully is this:  Victory does not mean a thing unless there is a real battle, a struggle.  In order to understand and appreciate winning, I believe you need to be always aware of the possibility of defeat.  And the price you had to pay for victory.  Have you noticed, too, that the most celebrated victories are the ones which have had the most at stake and the ones that have been fought the hardest?  No one gets really pumped up or inspired by failures.  

          But In Joseph’s case, I confess to you that I’ve often pumped my fist and nearly shouted: “Yeah!!”

                                       His servant, your friend and fellow student, ~donkimrey