Moved by Unmoved

On bended knee I come,

With a humble heart I come;

Bowing down before Your holy throne …

This song was sung during a recent Bible Study. Somehow it brings to my mind a rather common scene in many Korean dramas.

A man sought to have an audience with the King. But the King did not want to meet him. But the man refused to be turned away by the court officials. He went on bended knee, knelt and waited outside the King’s chamber. For a long time he remained kneeling. By then there were whispering concerns by worried onlookers. The night began to fall. The rain came. Still the man did not move an inch from his kneeling position. He waited and waited. All this time the King was watching from His royal chambers. He was moved by the man who remained unmoved. Eventually he came out to meet the man and hears his cause.

It is so easy to give up and give in to thinking that waiting is a waste of time.

The Bible is full of the injunction to wait.

“Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!” (Psalms 27:14)

“I will wait for You … My God of mercy shall come to meet me” (Psalms 59:9-10). 

“My soul, wait silently for God alone, for my expectation is from Him” (Psalms 62:5).

We read biblical accounts of those who waited.

Like Abraham who was promised a child, waited some 24 years before he became a father.

Like Simeon whom the Holy Spirit revealed that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. He waited his entire life to see the child Jesus.

Or like the prophet Anna who year after year, decade after decade was waiting with fasting and prayers night and day hoping to see “the redemption of Jerusalem.”

Their wait was rewarded.

Just so we need to go on bended knee. Wait upon the Lord

– When circumstances are uncontrollable and uncontainable

– When people are unreasonable and unchangeable

– When problems are unexplainable and unmanageable

The promise is clear:

“No eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for Him” (Isaiah 64:4).

It’s because God is always moved when we are truly unmoved in waiting for Him.

Doc … what?

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: Titus 2:1-15; Proverbs 28:3-5

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
Titus 2:1 “But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine.”

REFLECT
Right. Today’s devotion is on sound doctrine.

Sorry … doc … what? Yes, doctrine. Nothing to do with doctors or the latrine but quite simply in the Greek it means “teaching” or “instructions”. So in the context of church, it is a set of instructions given to exhort or encourage right behaviour. Such instructions are supposed to be “sound” as they are derived from our understanding of the Bible.

Sometimes, we get the mistaken idea that “sound doctrine” must mean some complicated theological ideas. No, it is not supposed to be that way. Just take a look at Titus 2:1-15. Sound doctrine here refers not to complex concepts; but rather how one should behave as a Christian; as one saved by the very grace of God. For example, in Titus 2, sound doctrine for the Christian has to do with self-control, renouncing worldly passions, sound speech, loving one another, among other things. In other words, Paul was telling Titus to teach the church on how to live. Sound doctrine has to do with living the Christian life.

RELATE
Not sure about you, but sometimes I think Christians can be very presumptuous. We assume that the phrase “sound doctrine” must be reserved for those academically inclined. Or those academically inclined love to use such a phrase in order to sound “clever” among other Christians. Yet, many phrases like this, when understood correctly, are quite different from what it is presumed to be. Another example would be “theology”. That is just a word to describe the study of the nature of God. It is not some jargon designed to trip up believers or destroy their faith. When a person starts to talk about God, he or she is practically doing theology.

Now why are such presumptions or misunderstandings occurring? I believe it has to do with ironically how sometimes we do not follow Paul’s exhortation to “teach what accords with sound doctrine”. In Titus 2, I believe Paul wasn’t just telling Titus to provide content. He was telling Titus to explain his content well as he himself explained that we are able to behave in a godly way because of Jesus. In Titus 2:7, Paul was even telling Titus to make himself an example of what sound doctrine means!

Alas. I do know of some so called Bible scholars who teach in the opposite of what Paul was suggesting to Titus. They like to use jargons and complex ideas to speak of a very simple thing. They like to make it sound as if theology or doctrine is purely an academic exercise for those with half a brain like theirs. To me, they make matters worse. They led people to misunderstand that there are two groups of Christian in this world: those smart enough to understand complicated ideas; and those who are not. This is not the truth and we are just not loving when we teach in this way.

There are also times when such misunderstandings occur because we absorb without thinking of the latest fads, teachings or hearsay without investigation. We do not question the origin nor the authority of such a hearsay, teaching or fad. Rather, we choose to hear what we like and make conclusions based on our own preferences. Such a learning attitude can be disastrous too; especially if we keep telling ourselves that our own experience is “king”.

So what can we do? May I suggest:

  1. Those called to teach – teach as how Paul exhorted Titus to teach. Teach deeply but simply. More importantly, do what we teach. Be an example to the flock.
  2. When we listen to teachings, discern. Discern through the word of God, the community of faith and constant prayer in the Spirit.

I believe if we can do more of these, more and more of us would not trip over phrases like “sound doctrine”; but embrace the word of God as it is. In this way, we can focus on what is important: being doers of the word.

REST
Lord my God, help us as a church to be wise and walk in Your ways. Amen.

You are who you worship

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: Jeremiah 49:23–50:46, Psalm 115:1-18

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
Psalm 115:8 “Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them.”

REFLECT
The Psalmist in Psalm 115 talked about Israel’s worship of idols. These idols could not hear, speak, see or even feel. They were the work of human hands. They could be made of silver and gold, but they were still brought forth by the imagination and beliefs of human beings. Hence, the Psalmist lamented that when Israel made or put their trust in such idols, they became like them. They could not “hear, see, speak or even feel”. They became as “worthless” as these idols. In the end, many of them could not appreciate the beauty, glory and truth about God; and even broke away from His love.

RELATE
In this day and age, most of us do not worship idols such as those worshiped by Israel. However, many of us might be struggling with “idolatry” brought forth by our time spent with our hand phones or gaming media on a daily basis. If we are not careful, we might become more and more like what we are spending our time on. We could become just like our hand phones: having much data or information, but very lacking in real human interaction or involvement.

We could become so entrenched in the hyper activity brought forth by gaming that we become increasingly distant to real people in the real world. We could even become easily angered or irritated with people around us. As we continue to worship (or become addicted to) such devices, we might just become more and more like them; great to look at on the outside, but real hollow on the inside.

We become who or what we worship. Therefore, let us focus our eyes upon the One who is truly worthy of our attention so that we can become more like Him.

REST
Lord, help us to take a step back and realise how much we have come to rely on our devices. Help us to break away from such addictions (if any) so that we can re-focus on You. We know that this is the best way. May the Holy Spirit empower us to be in the best way. Amen.

Fear God because He is good?

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: Jeremiah 33:1-34:22; Proverbs 27:15-16

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
Jeremiah 33:9 “And this city shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and a glory before all the nations of the earth who shall hear of all the good that I do for them. They shall fear and tremble because of all the good and all the prosperity I provide for it.”

REFLECT
Quite often, we equate the fear of the Lord with our awe of His power, might and holiness. Yet, in Jeremiah 33:9, it is suggested that the fear of the Lord can come through our realisation of His goodness and mercy in our lives. This can only happen when we are focused on the One who delivered such goodness as He pleases; and not so much on the “goodness” itself. Yes, when God bless a nation or an individual when the need arises, we can learn to fear Him. This is because it is a great reminder that He is in the know and in control of all things.

RELATE
In recent months, while searching for a new home, we witnessed for ourselves the very goodness of God. To save on agency fees, we decided to administer and search for the property on our own. While doing that, we met with many owners as well as housing agents. Some were friendly and acted in a fair manner. However, some were quite unscrupulous.

It was an eye and heart opener for us. While some of these incidents saddened our hearts; we found joy in a sovereign God who acted on our behalf. On more than one occasion, the Lord interceded on a potential deal that would have been unfair for us; or highlighted our attention to some aspects of the house that we would not have taken note of. Indeed, while we thank God for His goodness; we are also humbled by His grace to us all. He knows it all and already accounted for our foolishness in our journey with Him. What a mighty and good God He is! He is indeed worthy to be feared.

REST
Lord my God, as I ponder upon your goodness in my life. Help me to be humble and learn to revere you even more. Amen.

Genesis Day Thirty Nine

by Rev Joel Yong

Genesis 50:15-18
When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.” So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died: ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.”

Their deeds haunted them all the way to the end.
Even though Joseph had already forgiven them, their consciences did not let them forget.

They lived under the shadow of doubt, fearing Joseph who was now powerful, held back from vengeance for his father Jacob’s sake.

Sin is not without its price.
Often the pleasure or thrill we get from sin, lasts but a brief moment.

Yet the consequences last a lifetime.
The only relief that is possible, will come from God.

Joseph was also able to forgive his brothers, because he looked to God.
He was thus able to see the bigger picture.
That God’s plans for us, cannot be foiled by mankind’s schemes.

Genesis 50:19-21
But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

Trust God.
Men may plot your doom but the Almighty God’s plans are not disturbed by such vain attempts.

Genesis Day Thirty Eight

by Rev Joel Yong

Genesis 49:3-7
“Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, and the firstfruits of my strength, preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power. Unstable as water, you shall not have preeminence, because you went up to your father’s bed; then you defiled it—he went up to my couch! “Simeon and Levi are brothers; weapons of violence are their swords. Let my soul come not into their council; O my glory, be not joined to their company. For in their anger they killed men, and in their willfulness they hamstrung oxen. Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce, and their wrath, for it is cruel! I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel.

Israel was at his deathbed and he called his sons to him, to receive his final blessings which also turned out to be prophecies.

I found it interesting, that up till his death, he never forgot that Reuben slept with Bilhah and shamed his father by doing so.

Genesis 35:22
While Israel lived in that land, Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine. And Israel heard of it. Now the sons of Jacob were twelve.

He also did not forget that Simeon and Levi, in their anger, slew an entire city by the sword.

Genesis 34:25
On the third day, when they were sore, two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and came against the city while it felt secure and killed all the males.

Of all the things they did in their life, their father could not forget these moments and by these memories, defined what his sons were like …

What memories do you wish to leave with your kids, your nephews and nieces, your spouse, your parents, your siblings, your other relatives?

Well, firstly, for it to even be possible that there are memories left behind, we have to be in their lives today …

Take time and spend time with your loved ones.

6 days a week, I attend to pastoral concerns and matters.
1 day a week, I try to be there for my kids without interruption. My wife has a long day on this particular day so I am the one with them, taking them to school and picking ’em up and coaching them in schoolwork in the afternoon, taking them to afternoon classes.

And yes, it matters to me the kind of memories I am leaving my sons with- whether I am constantly leaving them aside to be at meetings, to attend to church member’s needs, or too tired out emotionally by the time I come home, to listen to their story about their day at school …

And the latter is something I am wary of … for this job can suck up all my emotional energy and cause me to come home depleted.
Those at home, need me to have enough emotional energy to listen to their concerns too …

It’s a struggle for me, and also a priority.
What about you?
What memories are you leaving for your household?

God is our Siri / Alexa?

by Rev Jason Phua

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
Jeremiah 21:2 “Inquire of the LORD for us, for Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon is making war against us. Perhaps the LORD will deal with us according to all his wonderful deeds and will make him withdraw from us.”

REFLECT
Disaster was at hand. When the stubbornness of Judah stood against the consistent mercy of God; God was determined to send His judgement against the people. This was for the purpose of humbling Judah and after 70 years of exile; may grow to be a better people.

In Jeremiah 21:2-3, it was troubling to hear from King Zedekiah. Even after all that had happened, he had the audacity to inquire of God and expected the Almighty to help them. How could Zedekiah even think that God would help them at this juncture? He and many of his predecessors had done what was evil in the sight of God. Many in Judah had repeatedly rejected the grace of God to repent. Yet, there he was, thinking that God was his Siri or Alexa. While he did not respond to God’s call to repent; there he was asking God questions which he expected favourable responses. How dull of ears and eyes could Judah be?

RELATE
Have we made God our Siri or Alexa? Even when we had not been spending enough time with God; have we been expecting God to respond when we “call”? Even when we have not been responding to God’s call for us to be transformed in His word, have we been expecting God to answer when we ask? Even as we have been resisting His will; are we expecting God to conform to our will?

I believe many of us have the tendency to be so. We have expected God to “answer” when we ourselves are super slow to respond and action on His perfect will. We have even expected God to conform to our will and sulk when He does not do so.

The root issue could be that we just want our own way and not the way of Christ. We are much more comfortable that way. We do not want to change; not when our own comfort or even our “treasured” sins are threatened. Sometimes we even have the audacity to expect God to go according to our way; and not His. How dull of eyes and ears can we be?

REST
God our Lord, forgive us as a people when we are stubborn. Help us to repent and walk according to Your way. Help us to be sensitive to Your calling in our lives; so that we can make wise decisions. This is all because You are the Potter and we are Your clay. Amen.

Genesis Day Thirty Seven

by Rev Joel Yong

Genesis 48:13-20
And Joseph took them both, Ephraim in his right hand toward Israel’s left hand, and Manasseh in his left hand toward Israel’s right hand, and brought them near him. And Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand on the head of Manasseh, crossing his hands (for Manasseh was the firstborn). And he blessed Joseph and said, “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day, the angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the boys; and in them let my name be carried on, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.” When Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on the head of Ephraim, it displeased him, and he took his father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. And Joseph said to his father, “Not this way, my father; since this one is the firstborn, put your right hand on his head.” But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He also shall become a people, and he also shall be great. Nevertheless, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his offspring shall become a multitude of nations.” So he blessed them that day, saying, “By you Israel will pronounce blessings, saying, ‘God make you as Ephraim and as Manasseh.’” Thus he put Ephraim before Manasseh.

Joseph thought Israel was old, nearly blind and confused.
He only thought of man’s order of blessing which traditionally puts the firstborn ahead of the younger sibling.

But Israel was not mistaken.
It was a prophetic act, by which he was declaring that the younger Ephraim would become greater than the older Manasseh.

Have you been there?
Whereby you think- you were chosen by mistake and it could not possibly be so?

I did.
When I was called to become a pastor, I was only in my 2nd year in NUS. That was 1998.
I said to God, “How can this be? Pastors are old men, like sages – I am too young!”

And now I am at about my 17th year as a pastor- and some of my colleagues who have served less than 17 years as a pastor have already retired!

And I have at least 22 years left in my journey as a pastor, that is, if I remain in this job till I turn 65 … clocking 39 years in total.

I will not be the longest serving though, because remember, I was in NS and then NUS. Some of my older colleagues joined before they went to a university, straight out of NS and some did not need to serve NS at all, as they are ladies.

When God revealed my destiny to me – I was saying: “How can this be?!”
But friends, you see, God makes no mistakes.

He knew Ephraim would surpass Manasseh.
Just like He knows how you and I would turn out.
When He sends His blessings or issues His calling- it is deliberate, intentional and yes, He knows what He is doing …

It does not mean you are great, that’s not why He chose you.
I have seen too many persons want to serve in positions in ministry and they consider themselves to be God’s gift to the church and become big-headed and lose focus.

No.
That is not why God calls us …

1 Corinthians 1:27
But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;

If you are prone to thinking, He chose you because you were talented and some kinda star – time for a reality check.

God chose us, precisely because when He does His work through us- people will see that its not possible that it came from us (because of how imperfect and broken we are), and naturally conclude that it must be God at work.

God never makes mistakes.

Genesis Day Thirty Six

by Rev Joel Yong

Genesis 46:1-4
So Israel took his journey with all that he had and came to Beersheba, and offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. And God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, “Jacob, Jacob.” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.”

At Joseph’s invitation, Israel moved with all he had.
There was nothing left behind, no “Just in case Egypt does not work out, let us leave a place here for us as reserved accommodation – just in case.”

Sometimes we don’t go, to a place we are called to, or sent to, with all our heart.

We long for the people we leave behind, the workplace we leave behind, the security and familiarity it affords …

Its natural but it also impedes our progress in wholeheartedly doing what God intends for us to achieve in the new place He is leading us to …

God assures Jacob/Israel that –

“Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. I myself will go down with you to Egypt, and I will also bring you up again, and Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.”

The place may seem strange and unfamiliar.
But what matters most, is that God is there with us.
That trumps everything else …

Genesis Day Thirty Five

by Rev Joel Yong

Genesis 45:16-20
When the report was heard in Pharaoh’s house, “Joseph’s brothers have come,” it pleased Pharaoh and his servants. And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Say to your brothers, ‘Do this: load your beasts and go back to the land of Canaan, and take your father and your households, and come to me, and I will give you the best of the land of Egypt, and you shall eat the fat of the land.’ And you, Joseph, are commanded to say, ‘Do this: take wagons from the land of Egypt for your little ones and for your wives, and bring your father, and come. Have no concern for your goods, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.’””

Pharaoh was happy to welcome Joseph’s family.
He was pleased to generously give them the best that Egypt had to offer.

Why was it so?

Certainly, it was due to how pleased he was with what Joseph had done.
Joseph had rescued Egypt from an impending global famine!

As a result, his brothers could enter Egypt as welcomed guests, and eat or drink of the best of the land!

Romans 3:24 (AMP)
[All] are justified and made upright and in right standing with God, freely and gratuitously by His grace (His unmerited favor and mercy), through the redemption which is [provided] in Christ Jesus

We too, enter Heaven, not because of what we have done, but because of Jesus Christ whose deeds have given us the blessing of citizenship in Heaven that we did not deserve.

Start the week by giving thanks to God for all He has done and the grace He showed you!

Genesis Day Thirty Three

by Rev Joel Yong

Genesis 44:17-34
But he (Joseph) said, “Far be it from me that I should do so! Only the man in whose hand the cup was found shall be my servant. But as for you, go up in peace to your father.” Then Judah went up to him and said, “Oh, my lord, please let your servant speak a word in my lord’s ears, and let not your anger burn against your servant, for you are like Pharaoh himself. My lord asked his servants, saying, ‘Have you a father, or a brother?’ And we said to my lord, ‘We have a father, an old man, and a young brother, the child of his old age. His brother is dead, and he alone is left of his mother’s children, and his father loves him.’ Then you said to your servants, ‘Bring him down to me, that I may set my eyes on him.’ We said to my lord, ‘The boy cannot leave his father, for if he should leave his father, his father would die.’ Then you said to your servants, ‘Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you shall not see my face again.’ “When we went back to your servant my father, we told him the words of my lord. And when our father said, ‘Go again, buy us a little food,’ we said, ‘We cannot go down. If our youngest brother goes with us, then we will go down. For we cannot see the man’s face unless our youngest brother is with us.’ Then your servant my father said to us, ‘You know that my wife bore me two sons. One left me, and I said, “Surely he has been torn to pieces,” and I have never seen him since. If you take this one also from me, and harm happens to him, you will bring down my gray hairs in evil to Sheol.’ “Now therefore, as soon as I come to your servant my father, and the boy is not with us, then, as his life is bound up in the boy’s life, as soon as he sees that the boy is not with us, he will die, and your servants will bring down the gray hairs of your servant our father with sorrow to Sheol. For your servant became a pledge of safety for the boy to my father, saying, ‘If I do not bring him back to you, then I shall bear the blame before my father all my life.’ Now therefore, please let your servant remain instead of the boy as a servant to my lord, and let the boy go back with his brothers. For how can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? I fear to see the evil that would find my father.”

Joseph did not know if his brothers had changed.
They were jealous and sold him into slavery.

He created a situation to test them.
Judah rose to the challenge.

Remember, years ago, it was Judah who suggested- that they sell Joseph into slavery.

Genesis 37:25-27
Then they sat down to eat. And looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing gum, balm, and myrrh, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers listened to him.

Now years later, this same Judah, offers to sacrifice himself for his youngest brother.

No wonder his offer, moved Joseph to the point of tears.

Genesis 45:1-2
Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him. He cried, “Make everyone go out from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept aloud, so that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it.

I find this heartwarming.
By God’s hand, people do change.

Even people who betrayed you, like Judah did.
It may take years, but let God do His work, while you move on and live your life- as Joseph did, climbing through the many betrayals he experienced in his life.

On a closing note, I wonder what Joseph did to Potiphar after becoming Pharaoh’s right hand man?

Genesis Day Thirty Two

by Rev Joel Yong

Genesis 43:34
Portions were taken to them from Joseph’s table, but Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as any of theirs. And they drank and were merry with him.

In the Hebrew perspective, firstborn sons got the double portion of any sons born thereafter.

Deuteronomy 21:15-17
If a man has two wives, the one loved and the other unloved, and both the loved and the unloved have borne him children, and if the firstborn son belongs to the unloved, then on the day when he assigns his possessions as an inheritance to his sons, he may not treat the son of the loved as the firstborn in preference to the son of the unloved, who is the firstborn, but he shall acknowledge the firstborn, the son of the unloved, by giving him a double portion of all that he has, for he is the firstfruits of his strength. The right of the firstborn is his.

That is why Esau wailed when Jacob was blessed as if he were the firstborn.
But here, Joseph, despite being a Hebrew, gives Benjamin – the youngest son of Israel, 5 times what his older brothers received!

This probably surprised the brothers who may have subsequently written it off as the ignorance of an Egyptian unfamiliar with Hebrew customs.

But Joseph did so deliberately.
Inspired, I would think.

He was showing us, how God would not let earthly rank, determine how He shows His favor or showers His blessings.

Jesus would reiterate the same truth much later on when he would teach:

Matthew 19:30
However, many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.

Jesus was teaching about how the disciples’ sacrifice, in terms of leaving their livelihoods to follow Him, in comparison with the rich young ruler’s reluctance to give up his possessions- will be duly rewarded in the kingdom of God.

There are other biblical examples of this truth.
Judas Iscariot was an early follower of Jesus but wound up betraying Him.
Paul was one of the last apostles but wound up writing many of the epistles and working so very hard for the kingdom of God.

The Israelites were the first whom Jesus made Himself known to, but the Gentiles made up many of those who began following Jesus first.

Being a last born child, I fully appreciate and understand this good news.

Thank You God, that earthly rank is no determiner or bias that influences how You operate and how Heaven’s blessings are poured forth.

Genesis Day Thirty One

by Rev Joel Yong

Genesis 42:1-5
When Jacob learned that there was grain for sale in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why do you look at one another?” And he said, “Behold, I have heard that there is grain for sale in Egypt. Go down and buy grain for us there, that we may live and not die.” So ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain in Egypt. But Jacob did not send Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, with his brothers, for he feared that harm might happen to him. Thus the sons of Israel came to buy among the others who came, for the famine was in the land of Canaan.

He was desperate for food amidst this famine so he sends his sons to Egypt to buy grain.
But he is traumatized by the loss of Joseph, who disappeared years ago and he was allegedly killed by wild animals, according to the account told.

I do not know if he believed those accounts, and blamed himself.
After all, Jacob was the one who sent Joseph out to look for his brothers.

Genesis 37:12-14
Now his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock near Shechem. And Israel said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.” And he said to him, “Here I am.” So he said to him, “Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock, and bring me word.” So he sent him from the Valley of Hebron, and he came to Shechem.

Or perhaps he found something fishy, and did not trust his sons, thinking something else may have happened to Joseph.

Whatever the case, because of his loss, he now clings tightly to his precious youngest, Benjamin. A son even younger than Joseph was.

But watch what happens next.
Joseph now unrecognizable in Egyptian garb, meets his brothers, plots to make them bring Benjamin down to Egypt for he longs to see him. He does so, by pretending to remand Simeon as prisoner until they return with Benjamin.

Jacob’s response to this, is telling.

Genesis 42:38
But he said, “My son shall not go down with you, for his brother is dead, and he is the only one left. If harm should happen to him on the journey that you are to make, you would bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to Sheol.”

He chose to keep Benjamin by his side and let Simeon languish in prison.

Sometimes when losses are inflicted upon our lives, we react by doing whatever we can to cling onto what is left and prevent a similar outcome from ever happening …

Our colleague backstabs us and we become suspicious of what other colleagues now mean when they say something to us …
Our heart gets broken when our lover leaves, and we become jealously protective of our next boyfriend or girlfriend, even stifling them …
Our tendency seems to deviate towards that of a scarcity mindset …
Instead of one that trusts God for what is ahead …

It even blinds us, like it did Jacob.
Such that he devalued one son for another by effectively letting Simeon remain in captivity, out of his fear of losing Benjamin.

We wind up hurting those around us, with our responses created by our fear of further losses …

Eyes to see and ears to hear

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: Jeremiah 4:19-6:15; Proverbs 27:4-6

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
Jeremiah 5:21 “Hear this, O foolish and senseless people, who have eyes, but see not, who have ears, but hear not.”

REFLECT
Jeremiah 5:21 speaks of God’s rebuke upon the people of Judah. The rebuke was that the people of Judah was foolish and senseless. They were foolish because they have eyes that did not see and ears that did not hear. Yet, what were they supposed to see and hear?

According to the surrounding passages, Judah was supposed to see and hear about the truth of God. Here, the act of seeing and hearing are not merely passive observations; but calls for understanding and action. Hence, they were supposed to fear God and walk in His ways in the truth.

Instead they were described as a people who: “lurk like fowlers lying in wait. They set a trap; they catch men. Like a cage full of birds, their houses are full of deceit; therefore they have become great and rich; they have grown fat and sleek. They know no bounds in deeds of evil; they judge not with justice the cause of the fatherless, to make it prosper, and they do not defend the rights of the needy.” (Jeremiah 5:26-28). So to the Lord, Judah was as good as blind and deaf; for their eyes and ears were tuned to things that were not of the Lord’s. They were an abomination.

RELATE
Do I have eyes and yet not see? Do I have ears and yet not hear? Are my eyes and ears tuned to what they were originally intended to see and hear?

No. Not always. There will be times when I would love to dwell in the word of God for a longer period of time but gave in to the temptation of attending to another less important matter. There will be times when I should tune out unhealthy gossips during conversations but I allow my curiosity to mar my discernment. Even if I know the truth and understood it; I might not always carry out the intended purpose of the truth. For example, I know that God requires me to defend the rights of the needy; yet there were occasions when I failed to do so in the excuse of a more “urgent” matter.

REST
Lord, help me to see and hear more of what you intended and so allow me to act upon these for the furtherance of Your kingdom. Otherwise, my eyes and ears would only be so tuned to the ways of the world; that I would fail to carry out Your purposes for my life. Amen.

Genesis Day Thirty

by Rev Joel Yong

Genesis 41:14-16
Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they quickly brought him out of the pit. And when he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came in before Pharaoh. And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.” Joseph answered Pharaoh, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.”

He could have seized the opportunity to leverage himself.
But instead he pointed to God and credits God as the Source.

We are given much in life.
Our abilities.
Our finances.
Our influence.
Our relationships.
Our time.

What do you do … do you pat yourself on the back looking at all you have?

Jesus spoke about people like that–

Luke 12:16-21
And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’” But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

Rest not, in the security of all around you, you did not do it on your own.

It is God who gave you what you have.
Be like Joseph.

Always credit Him.
Always remember.
Always give thanks.

Then you will be a good steward of the Master’s blessings.

Genesis Day Twenty Nine

by Rev Joel Yong

Genesis 39:1-10
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?” And as she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her, to lie beside her or to be with her.

His boss thought he was a valuable worker, because of the work he churned out.
His boss’ wife valued him too, because he was handsome in form.

How do the people around, appreciate you?
Do they appreciate you for what you can do for them, or for who you really are?

It’s important.
Because once you cease to be of help to them, they won’t value you anymore.

Potiphar turned against Joseph.
His wife falsely accused him of molest.

Genesis 39:16-21
Then she laid up his garment by her until his master came home, 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. But as soon as I lifted up my voice and cried, he left his garment beside me and fled out of the house.” 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. 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. But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.

But look at that last line.
When all human favor and support around him had ceased, God was still with Joseph.

And that is all that matters.
Because of God’s favor, Joseph rose to become the right hand man of Pharaoh.

So live, to seek God’s favor and not favor that comes from mankind, for that is fickle and untrustworthy.