Genesis 22 – Part 1 – Foreshadowing the cross

INTRODUCTION: In many ways, Genesis 22 is the culmination of the Bible’s story of Abraham, for in this chapter we see the foreshadowing of the cross of Jesus, we again encounter the angel of the LORD, and we see the supreme demonstration of Abraham’s faith as he takes his son, his only son, whom he loves, Isaac, to the land of Moriah to sacrifice him there (22:2). This series of articles will cover these different elements of Genesis 22.

The first article will focus on the way the circumstances and details of this narrative in Genesis 22 paints for us a clear foreshadow of the cross of Jesus Christ.

FORESHADOW (TYPE) OF CHRIST (GENESIS 22:1-10)

No word or detail of the inspired text of the Bible is random. The Bible is God’s word to His people, and God has chosen each word precisely for its intended purpose. As we read the Bible, then, we are alert for details that God has placed in the text to communicate His message to us. It is not surprising, then, that a first reading of Genesis 22:1-10 reveals that this father and son event points toward another Father and Son event out in the future. The details of this passage foreshadow Jesus’ crucifixion.

GENESIS 22:2

Examining the passage, then, we first observe that God tells Abraham to “take your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as an offering on one of the mountains” (22:2).

Abraham the father was to take his only son. This son was the answer to all his waiting and all his hope. This was his ONLY son. There would not be another. All God’s promises to Abraham rested on this son, his only son. This only son, Isaac, was the son whom Abraham loved. This detail is not given for information, but for emphasis. Can you feel the agony of this assignment? Imagine the father’s pain in taking his beloved only son to Moriah and offering him there as an offering. Notice, also, the place of the offering. Moriah was the place where, a thousand years later, Solomon would build his temple, there to offer sacrifices. So, Moriah was associated with sacrifice and burnt offering. But another thousand years after Solomon, Moriah was also the place outside of Jerusalem where the Romans would crucify criminals. And Abraham was to take his beloved only son to Moriah to offer him as a sacrifice.

These details are given to us here in Genesis 22:2 so that, when we see the events of Jesus’ journey to the cross, we can see that these events were pictured for us in this narrative so many years before. For we know that Jesus was the Father’s only begotten Son. There will never be another. He is the only Son of the Father. Jesus is the Beloved Son. Jesus said, “For the Father loves the Son” (John 5:20). And in the Upper Room Discourse, Jesus was praying to the Father and said, “You loved Me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). So, what we see in Jesus’ crucifixion is the Father giving His beloved only begotten Son as a sacrifice on the hill of Moriah.

GENESIS 22:3

The detail to be noticed in this verse is the wood. Abraham “split the wood for the burnt offering.” The wood was necessary for the burnt offering. The sacrifice was not possible without the wood. For our Lord Jesus, His sacrifice was also not possible without the wood of the cross, So, both for Isaac and for Jesus, the wood is essential to the sacrifice.

GENESIS 22:4

Another detail is inserted here in the inspired Scripture – “On the third day.” It is not important that Abraham and Isaac traveled three days to get to Moriah, but that fact is mentioned to draw attention to the immense importance of this passage. To make the passage stand out, Moses mentions the third day. This time period of three days occurs many times in Scripture, and is associated with significant events, so its occurrence here is another part of this narrative that would cause the reader to pause and take notice.

GENESIS 22:5

Abraham announces to his young men, “I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.” At no point does Abraham suggest that he is not going to sacrifice his beloved only son Isaac, so this statement to his young men should be interpreted as meaning that Abraham believed that his son would be given back to him by resurrection (Hebrews 11:17-19).

But now consider that, as outrageous as Abraham’s belief was, Jesus Christ publicly made statements that foretold His own resurrection after His sacrifice. In fact, Jesus declared that He must be killed to accomplish His mission, and He would certainly be raised up on the third day. Again, we see the details of Abraham and Isaac’s experience clearly contained in the events of the cross.

GENESIS 22:6-8

The plot thickens as the father and the son draw near to the place of sacrifice. The details in Genesis 22:6 are so carefully chosen. “Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son.” The wood of the sacrifice is laid on the son. No doubt, the wood was heavy, and its splinters rubbed into the son’s shoulders, but he carried the wood without complaint. The wood was his to carry, so he carried it willingly. Abraham took the fire and the knife, the instruments of sacrifice, and readied himself for the awful task. The father would sacrifice his beloved only son. “So the two of them walked on together.” The son trusts the father and the father loves the son, so the son does not run away, and the father does not disobey. The father and the son walked on together. Ever since Isaac could walk, father and son have walked together. Now they walk together to the place of sacrifice.

The poignancy of the scene increases still more in Genesis 22:7, as Isaac speaks to Abraham his father. “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Isaac is old enough to know the elements for an offering. There must be a sacrifice, but where is the lamb?

Abraham speaks words of immense faith, or at least of great hope. Abraham knows that Isaac, the son of promise, is to be the sacrifice, but the father tells the son, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son” (22:8). The father cannot bear to tell the son that the son whom he loves is to be the sacrifice. Isaac accepts the vague answer, and then “the two of them walked on together.” Trust. Love. Father and son going up the hill together to the place of sacrifice. Will God provide the lamb for the sacrifice? Where is the lamb?

Once again, the details so carefully woven into the narrative of Abraham and Isaac clearly give us a foretaste of the events of the cross. The Father figuratively lays the rough wood of the cross on the shoulders of His Son, where the splinters will enter His shoulders and back. Jesus the Son must bear this load alone, the heavy wood of the cross, but more, the terrible weight of the wrath of God. He will groan but not complain, for this is the work, His terrible work. Although the Father is with the Son as He climbs the hill, the Father cannot be seen by the eye of sinful man. Father and Son go on together to the place of sacrifice. The words of Isaac spoken so long ago still hang in the air over Moriah – “Father, where is the lamb?”

GENESIS 22:9-10

Having arrived at the place of sacrifice, the father “built the altar and arranged the wood and bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood” (22:9). Abraham is old and frail, and Isaac is young and full of the strength of early manhood. It is certain, therefore, that the father could not possibly force the son onto the altar, but the son yields in submission and obedience to the father’s will. The child of promise is now on the altar as Abraham raises the knife to slay his son.

Abraham and Isaac on Moriah give us a biblical “type.” That is, this father and son foreshadow for us the much more significant event of the cross of Christ. In the real event, the ultimate event, God the Father has appointed the crucifixion of God the Son. The Son yields in complete submission to the will of the Father (“not My will, but Thy will be done”) and allows Himself to be scourged and crowned with thorns and led up Moriah’s hill, the hill we know as Calvary. Here is the Lamb of God, the Lamb that Abraham said God Himself would provide. Jesus the Lamb is laid on the wood of the cross and then is lifted up so that He can be despised and forsaken of men. Isaac, the son of promise, is allowed to go free and to live while a ram is sacrificed in his place, but Jesus as the Lamb of God is the substitute. He is the sacrifice found in the thicket (Genesis 22:13) that is sacrificed in the place of the repentant, believing sinner, so that the sinner covered by His blood can be forgiven and go free. God the Father forsakes God the Son (unfathomable mystery!) so that the Son can bear the wrath of the Father’s judgment in the place of His people.

In the next post, we will take a close look at the angel of the LORD who appears in Genesis 22:11 and try to understand who he is. It should be a fascinating study.

SDG                 rmb                 12/15/2021                 #470

The man of lawlessness (2 Thessalonians 2:3-10)

In any discussion of the end-times in the Bible, the conversation will eventually touch on the antichrist. The speculation about the antichrist is often wild and unbridled, conjuring up images and activities that are completely foreign to any biblical text, but in those situations where the speculation is sober and biblically based, attention will turn to 2 Thessalonians 2 and the passage about “the man of lawlessness.” The man of lawlessness represents the clearest and most explicit teaching about the antichrist in all of Paul’s writing, and therefore deserves serious consideration when discussing the antichrist at the end of the age.

In my upcoming book, The Last Act of the Drama, I cover 2 Thessalonians 2 in depth, along with other eschatological Scriptures that highlight biblical manifestations of the antichrist, so this article is not about my thoughts, because they are expressed there. Rather, this post is about the thoughts of Herman Ridderbos, a Dutch biblical scholar, and are taken from his magnificent work, Paul: An Outline of His Theology. Ridderbos carefully exegetes this passage in 2 Thessalonians 2 and gives clear and helpful guidelines for how to understand this evil person who will appear at the very end of the age. I have selected quotes from his writing below that I think are most insightful and helpful in any study of the man of lawlessness. A careful reading of these quotes will give you a solid understanding of the biblical antichrist.

“The most striking thing of course is that this power inimical to God is concentrated here in the figure of what Paul calls the man of lawlessness.” (RMB: It is noteworthy that Paul concentrates all this evil in a single man.) “Furthermore, it is certainly indicated in the denotation “the man of lawlessness” that this man is not merely a pre-eminently godless individual, but that in him the humanity hostile to God comes to a definitive, eschatological revelation.” (p. 514)

Also, “just as Paul places Adam and Christ over against one another as the first and second ‘man,’ as the great representatives of two orders of men, so the figure of ‘the man of lawlessness’ is clearly intended as the final, eschatological counterpart of the man Jesus Christ.” “The coming of ‘the man of lawlessness,’ just as that of Christ, is called a παρουσία. It is marked by all manner of power, signs, and wonders, like those of Christ in the past.” (p. 514) “The man of sin (lawlessness) is the last and highest revelation of man (humanity) inimical to God, the human adversary of the man Jesus Christ, in whom the divine kingdom and the divine work has become flesh and blood. The divine antithesis between God and Satan that dominates history is decided on the human plane in those (two individuals) who as ‘the man’ represent salvation and destruction.” (p. 515) (RMB: Consider the parallel in 1 Samuel 17 when David, the coming king of Israel, fights Goliath, the champion of the enemies of Israel. Each represents their people, such that, as the champion fares in the battle, so go the people. David, as a type of Christ, vanquishes Goliath, who is a type of the antichrist. At the end of the age, the ultimate representatives will face one another, and the man of lawlessness (antichrist) will be finally vanquished by the returning Jesus Christ. That’s Ridderbos’ picture here.)

“As Christ is a person, but at the same time one with all who believe in Him and are under His sovereignty, so the antichrist is not only a godless individual, but a concentration of godlessness that already goes forth before him and which joins all who follow at his appearance him into unity with him. (He is now restrained because at his appearance unbelief, lawlessness, and godlessness will attempt to set themselves as an organic unity over against God and Christ.” (p. 516) “Paul does not stop with an ‘it,’ with an idea, or with a force, but the organic and corporate unity of human life finds its bearer and representative, as in Adam and Christ, so also in the antichrist, in a specific person. The antichrist would be no antichrist if he were not the personal concentration point of lawlessness, if he were not the man of lawlessness.” (p. 516)

The Angel of the LORD and Abraham (Genesis 22)

This article is another of our studies on the mysterious character of the angel of the LORD. As we go through the appearances of this person in the Old Testament, it will quickly become obvious that this is no ordinary angel. In fact, my conviction is that this is none other than the pre-incarnate Jesus, the second Person of the Trinity before His appearance in Bethlehem. My goal in these posts is to demonstrate how the Scriptures present the angel of the LORD as divine and thus to show that he prefigures Jesus Christ. Then I also want to discover what characteristics the angel of the LORD displays and how Jesus manifested this in His earthly ministry. Finally, an objective in all my posts is to show the beauty and the power of the Scriptures, and to make plain that the Scriptures are God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16).

GENESIS 22: ABRAHAM AND ISAAC ON MOUNT MORIAH

Genesis 22 is one of the most memorable chapters in the Old Testament. It begins when God calls Abraham to take his only son, Isaac, to Moriah “to offer him there as a burnt offering.” In an act of supreme devotion and obedience, Abraham painstakingly makes all the preparations for the burnt offering and travels to the place of sacrifice. He arranges the wood, places his son Isaac on the altar and raises the knife to slay his son. It is at that point that the angel of the LORD (AOTL) appears in the scene. Our study will go through Genesis 22:11-18.

11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 

COMMENTS: The AOTL calls Abraham by name just as God had called Abraham (22:1). The duplication of verses is significant and is meant to communicate that the two speakers are virtually the same. This would suggest that the AOTL calls Abraham as God.

Notice also that the AOTL spoke from heaven. (22:15 also) Only God speaks to man from heaven. The “from heaven” is an important clue to the deity of the AOTL.

Abraham immediately recognizes the voice of the AOTL and responds the same way that he did to God. (See 22:1) This is significant.

12 He said, “Do not reach out your hand against the boy, and do not do anything to him; for now, I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” 

COMMENTS: VERY IMPORTANT POINT – The AOTL commands Abraham NOT TO DO something that God had commanded him to do. God alone has the authority to change God’s commands. A mere angel has no such authority (or ability, for that matter).

Observe that the AOTL is certainly the one speaking in this verse, because he does not make any reference to God or to the LORD. Therefore, it is the AOTL who judges Abraham’s obedience (“I know that you fear God”), and it is from the AOTL (“from Me”) that Abraham has not withheld his son, his only son. But we know that it was God who had called Abraham to, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and offer him as a burnt offering (22:2).” The obvious conclusion is that the AOTL is God.

13 Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram caught in the thicket by its horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering in the place of his son.

COMMENTS: The AOTL provides a substitute. Although it is not explicitly stated, the implication is that, because the AOTL prevented the burnt offering of Isaac, it was the AOTL who provided the ram for the burnt offering. Instead of the sacrifice of Abraham’s beloved son, the LORD (22:14) provides a substitute.

Here, on this mountain, the beloved son is spared, and the substitute is sacrificed, but in the future on another mountain, the beloved Son is sacrificed AS the substitute and the sinners are set free. This provision of a substitute for sacrifice unmistakably foreshadows the death of Christ.

14 And Abraham named that place The Lord Will Provide, as it is said to this day, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”

COMMENTS: Abraham calls that place “The LORD Will Provide,” but the AOTL was the one who had provided the ram of the sacrifice. There is intentional ambiguity here as to who is providing, because, by that ambiguity, the Scripture is communicating to us that the AOTL is, in fact, divine.

15 Then the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven, 

COMMENTS: Why did the LORD Himself not speak to Abraham from heaven? Before it waws always the LORD who had spoken to Abraham. Why now the AOTL twice? This is done to present the divinity of the AOTL, that He is like the LORD.

16 and said, “By Myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son, 

COMMENTS: Once again, it is intentionally ambiguous who is speaking here. It is clear that the words come from the AOTL (22:15), but whose words are they? Is the AOTL speaking FOR the LORD, or is he speaking AS the LORD? That is, when the AOTL says, “declares the LORD,” is he giving the real source of the words, or is he stating his identity?

When the AOTL says, “By Myself I have sworn,” are the first-person singular pronouns referring to him or to the LORD? Again, intentional ambiguity.

The most natural way to read 22:16 is as a continuation of 22:12.

In 22:12, the AOTL says, “since you have not withheld your son, your only son from Me.”

In 22:16, the AOTL says, “because . . . you have not withheld your son, your only son.”

In 22:12, it is certain the AOTL is speaking for himself. I can discern no reason not to think that the AOTL is also speaking for Himself in 22:16. That being the case, we must conclude that the AOTL is speaking AS the LORD. Once again, we reach the conclusion that the AOTL is divine.

17 indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand, which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. 18 And in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”

COMMENTS: The AOTL says, “I will greatly bless you,” which is what the LORD had declared in Genesis 12:2. The AOTL says, “I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens,” which is what the LORD had declared in Genesis 15:5. The AOTL says, “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed,” which is what the LORD had declared in Genesis 12:3 and 18:18. The AOTL speaks with all the authority of the LORD, as if he is the LORD. He repeats and confirms what the LORD has already said.

CONCLUSION

In these eight verses in Genesis 22 we have seen many reasons that suggest that the angel of the LORD is divine, as somehow related to God and the LORD, and yet also distinct from either of them.

The AOTL speaks with all the authority of the LORD. In fact, often it is impossible to determine whether the AOTL is speaking purely for Himself or if he is just communicating the words of the LORD to us.

The AOTL has authority to issue divine commands and to correctly declare the truth of all Scripture.  

The AOTL provides a substitutionary sacrifice.

The wonder is that, when we see that angel of the LORD, we see an appearance of the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ. He is the one who speaks with all the authority of the LORD. When Jesus speaks, God speaks. Jesus has the authority to issue divine commands and to rightly apply all of God’s commands. At His word, all discussion ceases. And finally, Jesus was the one who would offer Himself not as a burnt offering, but as a sin offering on the cross as a substitute for all the sinners who would believe in Him.

SDG                 rmb                 3/9/2021

The Angel of the LORD in Genesis 16 with Hagar

This is the first of a series of studies on the Old Testament character of the angel of the LORD. As we go through the appearances of this person in the Old Testament, it will become obvious that this is no ordinary angel. In fact, my conviction is that this is none other than the pre-incarnate Jesus, the second Person of the Trinity before His appearance in Bethlehem. My goal in each of these posts is to demonstrate how the angel of the LORD prefigures Jesus Christ. Then I also want to discover what characteristics are exhibited by the angel of the LORD and how Jesus manifested this in His earthly ministry. Finally, an implicit objective in all my posts is to show the beauty and the power of the Scriptures, and to make plain that the Scriptures are God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16).

GENESIS 16: THE ANGEL OF THE LORD MEETS HAGAR

As the narrative in Genesis 16 unfolds, Sarai, Abram’s barren wife, has given her Egyptian maidservant, Hagar, to Abram so that Abram can go into her and have an heir. The plan backfires when Hagar conceives and, as a result, despises her mistress Sarai. Sarai then “treats Hagar harshly,” and Hagar runs away into the wilderness (Genesis 16:6). We will pick up the action there.

After the angel of the LORD finds Hagar in the wilderness, he speaks to her and asks her what is wrong. Hagar replies that she is fleeing from Sarai. The angel of the LORD then directs Hagar to return to Sarai and submit to Sarai’s authority (16:9).

We need to pause here for a second, because something interesting has just occurred. Notice that the angel of the LORD commands Hagar to return and submit to Sarai because it is right for Hagar to submit to her authority. Thus, the angel of the LORD has the authority to give people commands and to make moral judgments. This is a clue that this angel is divine.

Next, the angel of the LORD declares that He “will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be too many to count (16:10).” Now stop and consider this. With no reference or allusion to God or to the LORD, the angel of the LORD just declared the future as if it were already fact and promised to Hagar that He Himself would give her many descendants. He had said, “I will greatly multiply . . .” Notice he speaks in first-person singular: “I will.” Only God has the power to declare the future because only God controls and ordains the future. Also, God is the one who opens the womb and God alone is the one who determines who will bear children and how many they will bear. Yet here, the angel of the LORD has both declared the future and has promised Hagar children. These are strong clues that this mysterious angel is none other than the LORD Himself, since He does what only God can do.

The angel of the LORD goes on to make specific prophecies about Hagar’s son-to-be, Ishmael. He gives Ishmael his name and He describes his personality and even tells where he will live (16:11-12). All this is declared as fact, even though Hagar had just conceived. It is almost as if the angel of the LORD knows the future in detail, almost as if he is omniscient.

Finally, we examine Genesis 16:13 and see other clues about the identity of the angel of the LORD. Hagar “called the name of the LORD who spoke to her . . .” Hagar is convinced that the Person who spoke to her was the LORD but notice that the only Person who spoke to her in this story was the angel of the LORD. We must conclude that the angel of the LORD is the LORD. Now notice the name that Hagar gave to “the LORD who spoke to her:” “You are a God who sees.” Clearly Hagar believes that the LORD who spoke to her is God. At the end of this verse (still in Genesis 16:13) she says, “Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?” In Hagar’s mind, when she saw the angel of the LORD, she had seen God. She was amazed that she remained alive because no one can see God and live. Again, Hagar believes that, in the angel of the LORD, she has met and talked with God, a God who sees her and has compassion on her, a God who is not going to let her perish in the wilderness or be treated too harshly by her mistress, Sarai. Yet Hagar had talked only talked with the angel of the LORD.

            We have looked at the textual evidence about the identity of the angel of the LORD, but there are also intangible, subjective hints that let us know who he is. From the moment of His appearance on the scene, he possesses a divine presence, a bearing that radiates authority. It is obvious that the angel of the LORD is no ordinary angel. There is in his demeanor a simple, confident assurance that He is in charge, the He is in control.

            Notice one other thing about the angel of the LORD. In Hagar’s encounter with him, even though he is an angel, his appearance does not frighten Hagar. Isn’t that curious? In other encounters with angels, it is normal for the angel to calm the person, but this angel does not tell Hagar, “Fear not!” Maybe he appears to Hagar as an ordinary, flesh and blood man. The angel of the LORD does not intimidate her, but rather seems to have compassion on her. She trusts Him. It is only after her encounter that she realizes who He was. His words. His demeanor. His presence. His compassion. His authority. “Why, He must be God!”

WHO IS THE ANGEL OF THE LORD?

Who is the angel of the LORD? Surely, it is obvious who he is. Who is a divine being who appears as a flesh-and-blood man? Who is the one whose very presence exudes authority? Who is the one who existed in the form of God, yet did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped (Philippians 2:6)? Who is the one who speaks as the LORD, yet is not the LORD? The angel of the LORD announced that He Himself would greatly multiply Hagar’s descendants and that she would have a son. But only God has the authority to make and fulfill such promises.

Yes, the angel of the LORD is none other than the pre-incarnate Lord Jesus Christ. There is no other candidate, no other suspect.

CHARACTERISTICS OF THE ANGEL OF THE LORD

            First, we see that the angel of the LORD is compassionate. Hagar is running from Sarai, running into the wilderness. She is just a runaway Egyptian maid, wandering in the wilderness, but the angel of the LORD seeks her and finds her and speaks kindly to her and sends her back to the place of safety and blessing.

            We also see that the angel of the LORD has the power to create the future. He declares to Hagar that He will greatly multiply her descendants and that she will have a son, who she is to name Ishmael. He is sovereign over the future.

            Finally, the angel of the LORD sees us, and He gets involved in our lives.

            And now we know this angel of the LORD as Jesus Christ, the great King of kings.

SDG                 rmb                 2/22/2021

Crippled in both feet (2 Samuel 9:3)

When I was younger, it was a lot easier for me to believe that people were a pretty noble lot and that, if a person applied themselves and made the effort, then life would turn out pretty well. But as I have gotten older and have seen so many of my own best efforts amount to nothing as plans disappear like mist, and as I have watched those with promising beginnings become mired in mediocrity, I have wondered if maybe I overestimated our nobility. Maybe the truth is that we are broken and crippled in both feet and need someone to lift us up out of our futile existence.

MEPHIBOSHETH, THE CRIPPLE

In 2 Samuel 9 we are introduced to Mephibosheth. It is an odd name that he was given. His name in Hebrew means “dispeller of shame,” which is ironic because Mephibosheth’s life is marked by brokenness and shame. When we meet him in this story, “he is in the house of Machir the son of Ammiel in Lo-debar (9:4).” The most noticeable feature of Mephibosheth is that he is crippled in both feet (9:3).

“How did he become crippled?” you ask. Mephibosheth was the grandson of the king of Israel, King Saul. One day when he was five years old, the report came that his father Jonathan and his grandfather Saul had been killed in battle. His nurse took him up and fled, and in her haste, Mephibosheth fell. He fell and became crippled. In one day, Mephibosheth became crippled and orphaned. When he was five years old, all reasonable prospects for a happy future were irreversibly shattered. His father was killed, his legs were crippled, and the nurse he trusted failed him. And so, eventually, he drags himself out to Lo-debar, into the house of Machir the son of Ammiel. There in this dusty, backwater town, he ekes out his existence; forgotten, crippled, and orphaned. Helpless. Hopeless. End of story.

But it is not the end of the story, because there is an anointed king, King David, who is seeking for Mephibosheth. From his house in Jerusalem, King David “sent and brought him from the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, from Lo-debar (9:5).” David calls Mephibosheth by name (Isaiah 43:1) and, for no reason other than to show him kindness, the king makes promises to Mephibosheth, extravagant and astonishing promises of kindness and of lands and of a place at the king’s table where Mephibosheth can eat regularly as one of the king’s sons. In one day, Mephibosheth exchanged the miseries of Lo-debar for the glories of Jerusalem, and the house of Machir for the house of the king.

How does Mephibosheth respond? First, he “fell on his face and prostrated himself” before King David. What else would a person do when entering the presence of the king? Then Mephibosheth confesses his own unworthiness to receive such mercy and kindness. “Why do ‘you regard a dead dog like me?’” This is not self-loathing or self-pity, but an acknowledgement by Mephibosheth that he deserves none of David’s kindness. All he can bring to the king is his homage and unworthiness.

Through David’s kindness, Mephibosheth, who once was living in the house of Machir the son of Ammiel in Lo-debar, crippled in both feet, now lived in Jerusalem and he ate at the king’s table regularly as one of the king’s sons. Oh, and he was lame in both feet.

THE GOSPEL IN THE STORY OF MEPHIBOSHETH

As fascinating as this story of Mephibosheth is, it is the “normal” story of everyone who has trusted in Jesus the Messiah. The sober truth is that we are all broken from birth. All of us are victims of the fall, ruined because of the sin of Adam. We are figuratively hiding out in Lo-debar, waiting for someone who can be a “dispeller of our shame.” All our reasonable prospects for a happy future have been shattered or have evaporated. Like Mephibosheth, we are forgotten, crippled, and orphaned. Helpless. Hopeless. It feels like the end of story.

Then one day, we hear about an anointed king, King Jesus, the Son of David, who is seeking for us (Luke 19:10) and who is calling us by name. As we listen to His voice, this King makes promises to us, extravagant and astonishing promises of forgiveness of sins, and of joy in this life and eternity in heaven, and of a place at the King’s table where we can eat regularly as one of the King’s sons or daughters. According to this gospel of good news, in one day, in one moment we can exchange the miseries of our brokenness for the pleasures of His holiness. Jesus the Messiah is the great dispeller of our shame.

How do we respond? We fall on our face and prostrate ourselves before the glorious Messiah Jesus and we confess our sins and our unworthiness, and then we give Him our lives as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1) so that He can make use of even our lameness and our brokenness.

Yes, we are Mephibosheth.

SDG                 rmb                 2/20/2021

Old Testament stories: Genesis 22 – “Where is the lamb?”

The Bible contains many genres, different types or styles of literature that communicate the Bible’s essential truths. “Narrative” is one of those genres. Narrative is simply a way of saying “a story.” The Bible, both Old and New Testament, is full of stories that are inspired and written so that they convey spiritual truth through the dialog and the events of the characters in these narratives. I am now writing a series of articles that look at stories from the Old Testament which foreshadow the coming of Jesus the Messiah. That is, these stories about characters and events which happened centuries or even millennia before Jesus was born, nevertheless unmistakably picture the Messiah in His life and ministry. The hope is that we will see Jesus a little more clearly through these stories. This story from Genesis 22 is the first article in the series.

GENESIS 22:1-14 – ABRAHAM AND ISAAC GO TO MORIAH TO SACRIFICE

Our story for this article will come from Genesis 22, when Abraham is an old man and his son, Isaac, the son of promise, is probably in his late teens. Abraham is called by God to go to the land of Moriah to make an unusual sacrifice. The format for these Old Testament studies will be to go through the narrative once, pointing out what is going on in the story and highlighting some features of the narrative that are particularly significant and that will be explored later. Then we will go through the passage a second time pointing out how the story gives us a foreshadow of the Messiah who is promised in the Old Testament.

Because this article is long, I decided to place it on my “Roy’s Reflections” site as a ‘page’ rather than a blog post. Follow the link below to read the entire article.

Old Testament stories: “Where is the lamb?” (Genesis 22) – Roy’s Reflections

The Beauty of Old Testament Narratives: A series

One of the fascinating features of the Bible is the large percentage of the Scriptures, in both the Old and the New Testaments, that are made up of narrative stories. Narrative stories have an inherent attraction to us because we all like to read a good story. We see other people like ourselves wrestling with the challenges of life or making decisions or trying to figure out their meaning and purpose or dealing with conflict and confusion and loss, and we identify with them. Narratives connect us at a basic human level, and it is the same with the narrative stories of the Bible. They are remarkably accessible, and the characters are surprisingly real.

But there is something else to consider in these narrative stories in the Scriptures, and it is this: Why were these stories selected to be included in the pages of the Bible? Of the uncountable events that have taken place in history and the millions of characters who have walked on the face of the earth, why did the authors of the Bible select these narrative stories to be preserved for all time? It would be one thing if these stories had great political or historical interest and showed prominent world-changers as they made history, but the narratives in the Scriptures, and particularly those in the Old Testament Scriptures, are chosen seemingly at random. The characters are, for the most part, ordinary people in ordinary circumstances. So, why these people? And if we figure out why these people are included (Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, and so on), we may still have questions about why these events. Is there a reason these stories were selected?

The narrative stories we will explore are from the pages of the Old Testament. The Hebrews held these writings to be inspired revelation from the LORD Himself and were, therefore, sacred writings. Since they were sacred, they could not be changed or altered, for then they would not be God’s word. These Scriptures were central to the life of the Hebrew faith community. In fact, two important jobs came from the Hebrews’ veneration of the Scriptures: the lawyer and the scribe. The lawyer’s job was to study the Scriptures to see what they meant, while the scribe was tasked with painstakingly copying the Scriptures, letter by letter, onto new scrolls so that the word of God would be preserved exactly as it had been received.

But why all this effort? Why all this tedious attention to detail to make sure that these obscure events about unknown people were preserved in their original form? Why? Because in the mind of God, there was a definite purpose for the Old Testament and even a definite purpose for how the Old Testament was written. These books of Torah and history and prayer and wisdom and prophets were given by God to the Hebrews to prepare the world for a coming event. The Scriptures were written to prepare the world for the appearing of Jesus, the Messiah. And so, some of these narratives point forward to show us the promised Messiah.

Over the course of the next few weeks, I plan to post a series of articles on selected narratives from the Old Testament Scriptures which give us foreshadows and clues about the first advent of Jesus the Messiah. As we explore these stories, we will see that, though ordinary in their characters and their details, the stories have a quality about them that transcends their ordinariness. We will also discover that the stories, though interesting in themselves, are written for the purpose of foreshadowing the one to come.

So, that is the plan. The first post in the series will look at Genesis 22:1-14, the story of Abraham and his son Isaac going to the land of Moriah to make a very unusual sacrifice.

SDG                 rmb                 2/9/2021

The death of David’s son (2 Samuel 12:14)

“Because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child who is born to you shall die.” – 2 Samuel 12:14

If we are watching a courtroom drama unfold where the guilt of the accused party has been clearly proven by evidence and cross-examination and there is no reasonable doubt that they committed the crime, and then the jury returns a verdict of “not guilty,” we are justly outraged. The guilty one has been unjustly acquitted. The law has been violated because the guilty have gone free. The law is in place to punish the guilty, and yet this guilty one has not been punished.

In these situations where men have ignored and run roughshod over man’s laws, it is right to be angry and outraged. How much more outraged should we be, then, when a person is proven guilty of violating God’s Law and is unjustly acquitted! Yet this seems to be exactly what we find in 2 Samuel 11-12 in the incident with David’s famous sins.

A quick review is in order for this familiar story. In 2 Samuel 11, “in the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David remained at Jerusalem (2 Samuel 11:1).” Whether by design or by chance, David is walking on his roof and sees Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, bathing. He sends messengers to bring her to his house, “he lay with her, then she returned to her house (11:4).” Bathsheba becomes pregnant by David, and now David has a problem. After calling Uriah the Hittite, Bathsheba’s husband, back from the battlefield to Jerusalem, David tries to convince Uriah to go to his house to be with his wife. The noble and loyal Uriah refuses to go to his house to lie with his wife while Joab and Israel’s army are out in the open field fighting the Ammonites. With Plan A foiled, David then implements Plan B, which is to have Joab “set Uriah at the forefront of the fiercest fighting and then draw back from him, that he may be struck down and die (11:15).” Uriah is thus killed, so Plan B appears to have worked, “but the thing that David had done displeased the LORD (11:27).”

In the next scene, the prophet Nathan comes to David and tells him a story about a grave injustice done by a rich man against a poor man. Incensed by the injustice, David cries out, “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves to die (2 Samuel 12:5).” Nathan famously declares to David, “You are the man!” The prophet then proceeds to tell David the details of his sins and the consequences that the LORD is going to bring on David because of his sins. David then says to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD (12:13).” Astonishingly, after this simple and brief confession, Nathan responds to David by saying, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child who is born to you shall die (12:13-14).”

What?? This is outrageous! David willfully commits adultery with Bathsheba whom he knows is married to Uriah the Hittite, one of his thirty mighty men (23:39), and then wickedly sees to it that this noble man, Uriah, dies in battle, effectively murdering him, and then utters a brief confession of “I have sinned,” and he gets off the hook? “I have sinned,” and adultery and murder are just sort of swept away? How can this be right? O yes, I am sure it was extremely painful to watch as your infant son die, knowing that his death was your fault, but that in no way satisfies the demands of the Law. Surely this is gross injustice! How can the LORD allow this?

SOLVING THE OUTRAGE

            This does seem to be an outrage but consider these things. The death of the child born to Bathsheba highlighted David’s guilt and reminded him of the wages of his sin, but the death of that child brought him no forgiveness. For if Nathan is telling David that he is forgiven because of the death of the child of Bathsheba, then the injustice of that forgiveness and the outrage remain. David violated the Law of God on two counts, and the Law of God demands death for the violator. By David’s own words, “The man who has done this deserves to die!” “The soul who sins shall die (Ezekiel 18:4).” The justice of God demands a death penalty for these sins, and the death of Bathsheba’s son could never satisfy the Law’s demands. Bathsheba’s son died as a judgment for David’s sins, not as a propitiation for David’s sin, because this unnamed son of David was not an acceptable sacrifice for David’s sin. This child was not a worthy substitute.

            How, then, can the LORD take away David’s sin, and how can the LORD legally forgive one who has flagrantly and repeatedly and willfully rebelled against His holy Law? If the death of this child cannot atone, what can wash away David’s sin?

            Nathan can declare that the LORD has taken away David’s sin not based on the death of Bathsheba’s son, but based on the death of Mary’s Son. The death of David’s son born in Jerusalem could not atone for any of David’s sins, but the death of David’s Son born in Bethlehem atoned for all of David’s sins. The unnamed son of Bathsheba was not an acceptable sacrifice for David’s sin, but the Son of Mary, who was named Jesus because He would save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21), gave His life as an acceptable ransom (Mark 10:45) for David’s sin by His substitutionary death on the cross. Therefore, Nathan can declare that the LORD has taken away David’s sin because Jesus the Messiah, the glorious Son of David, that Child who is born to David shall die.

“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God displayed publicly as a  propitiation in His blood through faith (Romans 3:23-25).”

APPLICATION

            Now the question that we asked earlier about David must be answered by every one of us. How can the LORD legally forgive one who has flagrantly and repeatedly and willfully rebelled against His holy Law? For the truth is that we have all rebelled against the Lord and we have all flagrantly and willfully violated His holy Law. How can God legally forgive us? But the good news of the gospel is that the Jesus who died for David’s sins is also the Savior who died for the sins of all those who put their faith in Him. If you repent and believe in the gospel (Mark 1:15), then Jesus died for your sins, as well. Praise God that the Child who was born to David died!

SDG                 rmb                 11/14/2020

Psalm 110: A brief lesson in Christology

The LORD says to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand . . .”

INTRODUCTION

Thus, David begins Psalm 110, a psalm that held many mysteries for those who lived before the Incarnation. “The LORD says to my Lord.” “Yahweh says to my Adonai.” Right from the start the psalm presented difficulties. God is talking to God. Yahweh is talking to Adonai, so there appear to be two persons here, but the Shammah from Deuteronomy 6:4 says, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” So how can this be? There is no clear solution to this puzzle.

            Jesus Himself brings out another conundrum from the psalm, as He questions the Pharisees during Passion Week. At that time, Psalm 110 was accepted by Hebrew scholars as a messianic psalm. The images and the drama of the psalm made it obvious that it pictured the victorious exploits of the Messiah. But the Holy Spirit had inspired David to write a theological riddle. So, Jesus asks, “Whose son is the Christ (Matthew 22:42ff)?” “The Son of David,” the Pharisees reply. The trap has been set and the bait has been taken. Jesus then quotes Psalm 110 and asks the obvious question: “If (in Psalm 110) David calls him (the Messiah) ‘Lord,’ how is He his Son?” In other words, “How can the Christ (Messiah) be both David’s son and his Lord?” No answer is offered because no answer is available. The Pharisees have no solution to the riddle.

            But the mysteries are even deeper than that. While the psalm was acknowledged to be about the victories of the Messiah, the only reference for the pronouns “You” and “Your” in verses 1-4 and the only reference for the pronoun “He” is verses 5-7 is “the Lord,” which in Hebrew is Adonai, a divine name of God. Therefore, taking all this into account, from Psalm 110 we discover that the Messiah is the Lord Adonai, but He is also the human Son of David “according to the flesh (Romans 1:3),” a Man like us who “will drink from the brook by the wayside (Psalm 110:7)” to quench His thirst. Sort of like a God-Man.

            Does that sound familiar? It should because Psalm 110 points unerringly to the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, this psalm is one of the most complete pictures of Jesus Christ in both His first and second advents in the Bible. The psalm provides us with a lesson in Christology that is supported by many other Scriptures. The rest of this article will explore Psalm 110 verse-by-verse and show how it reveals Jesus to us.

FINDING JESUS IN PSALM 110

  • Verse 1 – The Lord is told to sit at the right hand of the LORD because He has accomplished something that merits the seat of honor. Christ is exalted to the right hand of the Majesty on high (Hebrews 1:3) because He has accomplished the work of redemption that He was given to do (John 17:4). He is highly exalted as a result of His perfect humiliation by his death on the cross (Philippians 2:5-11). He has been allotted a portion with the great (Isaiah 53:12).
  • Verse 1 – We have already talked (above) about the divine and human natures of the one who is the Lord (Adonai) and yet the Son of David.
  • Verse 2 – A “strong scepter” is a symbol of this King’s power. “The LORD sends forth Your strong scepter from Zion.” This scepter is the gospel that is sent forth and allows Christ through His church to rule in the midst of His enemies, “as sheep in the midst of wolves (Matthew 10:16)”. With the scepter of the gospel Christ will conquer the nations and bring many into His kingdom.
  • Verse 3 – There is a certain day in the future, “the day of Your power,” when His power will be on full display. We know that this will be the day of the Lord, the day of Christ’s return. In that day, “Your people will volunteer freely” and they will be dressed “in holy array.” This is describing the glorified saints arrayed in white robes who will come with the Lord Jesus upon His return. (See 1 Thess. 4:14; 2 Thess. 1:10; Revelation 19:14)
  • Verse 4 – The LORD has taken an oath and has sworn, and when God Himself takes an oath, it indicates the unchangeableness of the promise (Hebrews 6:13-20). This is the solemnity of the oath that the LORD has made to the Lord Jesus. The oath cannot be broken or changed.
  • Verse 4 – What is the nature of the oath? That Christ is “a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek.” First, then, He is a Priest as well as a King. There were no such kings in the Davidic line, for the priests were descended from Aaron in the tribe of Levi and the kings were from David in the line of Judah. Thus Christ, the Son of God, is the only one allowed to be both King and Priest because He is of the priestly order of Melchizedek. As a priest, Jesus makes intercession for His people. As priest, He is also the one who brought the blood of the eternal sacrifice to the heavenly mercy seat (See Hebrews 9-10).
  • Verse 4 – Christ is a priest forever. The priesthood of Jesus had no beginning and will have no end. In eternity past, the LORD swore with an oath that Jesus was a priest forever. He always lives to make intercession for His people (Hebrews 7:25). His people always have an advocate, a priest to intercede for them with the Father.
  • Verse 4 – For a study of Melchizedek as a type of Christ, spend time in Hebrews 7.
  • Verse 5 – “The Lord is at Your right hand.” Thus, begins the day of the Lord’s wrath. Verses 5-6 speak about the day of Christ’s return in wrath and judgment. We recall from verse 1 that the LORD invited the Lord to sit at His right hand. On the day of wrath, the Lord will still be at the LORD’s right hand as they render judgment to the unrighteous. In Revelation 6:16, the kings of the earth say to the mountains, “Hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne (the LORD), and from the wrath of the Lamb (the Lord).”
  • Verse 5 – “He will shatter kings in the day of His wrath.” From that same passage in Revelation 6:15-17, the Lord shatters kings and the great men in the day of His wrath. Psalm 110:5 is describing the events of Revelation 6:15-17.
  • Verse 6 – The Priest-King of the order of Melchizedek “will judge among the nations.” Can there be any doubt that this is the terrible day of Christ’s final judgment? This is described in Matthew 25:31-46, when Jesus separates the sheep from the goats and casts those on His left “into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels (v. 41).” We see a glimpse of this in Luke 19:27 and in Revelation 14:9-11. Psalm 2:9 also mentions that the Son “will break them with a rod of iron and shatter them like earthenware.” Finally, in Revelation 19:11-16 we see the Lord Jesus coming in His final judgment.
  • Verse 6 – “He will fill them with corpses.” In the great day of judgment, there will be many slain by the Lord Jesus as He returns to deal out retribution. In Revelation 19:17-21, the Scriptures declare that the birds in midheaven will feast on “the flesh of kings and the flesh mighty men,” and all of these will be “killed with the sword that came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse.” The one on the horse is the Lord Jesus in His Second Coming. There will be many corpses on that day.
  • Verse 6 – “He will shatter the head over a broad country.” What would it mean for Jesus the Messiah to “shatter the head?” In Genesis 3:15, we read that the Messiah, the seed of the woman, will bruise Satan on his head. Now here we read that the great Priest-King, the Messiah “will shatter the head.” Psalm 110:6 is speaking of how Jesus crushed Satan’s head when He was crucified at The Place of a Skull. We also know that Jesus will finally “crush Satan’s head” when throws him into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10).
  • Verse 7 – The final verse may be the most mysterious of all. “He will drink from the brook by the wayside.” From this phrase it is unmistakable that this Warrior is human, for He thirsts and so He must stop by the wayside to drink from the brook. He wields the divine sword of judgment, yet He also needs water to slake His thirst.
  • Verse 7 – There may be more intended from the phrase, “He will drink from the brook.” For we know that, during His first advent, Jesus the Messiah was required to drink the cup of God’s wrath which He was given (John 18:11; Matthew 20:22). We know that, while He was on the cross, the Messiah thirsted (John 19:28). It is possible, then, to understand this phrase as speaking about His suffering in His earthly life. He drank from the brook of suffering that ran by the wayside of His life.
  • Verse 7 – If drinking from the brook does, in fact, point to Jesus’ suffering in this life, then the second half of the verse fits well into Scripture. In Isaiah 53:11, “As a result of the anguish of His soul . . .” Then in 53:12, “Therefore, I will assign Him a portion with the great.” In Philippians 2:8, Jesus was “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” But 2:9, “Therefore also God highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name.” (See also Revelation 5, where the Lamb is given glory and honor because He has conquered.) Because the Messiah endured the cross, “Therefore He (the LORD) will lift up His (the Lord’s) head.” And this understanding would bring us back to the start of the psalm when Jesus ascends to the right hand of the LORD.

CONCLUSION

            Psalm 110 presents us with a powerful picture of Jesus the Messiah in His first advent as the suffering Servant, but also in His Second Coming as the Warrior-Judge. This psalm also highlights the prophetic nature of some of the psalms as clearly foreshadowing future events. Finally, the psalm reveals again the divine inspiration of the Scriptures as these words written by David a thousand years before Jesus’ Incarnation are fulfilled by our great Priest-King.

SDG                 rmb                 10/20/2020

Living in the present with Joseph (Genesis 50:19-20)

My last post was about living in the present moment so that we can maximize our enjoyment of the Lord and can give ourselves away for the blessing of others. If I am dwelling in the past and lamenting things that cannot be changed, or if I am fearing the future and fixating on the threats that might come, then I am not living in the present. And the present is the only place where I can live and be faithful to my calling (Ephesians 4:1) and accomplish the works the Lord has given me to do (Ephesians 2:10).

In this post I wanted to further explore this idea of living in the present by looking at some biblical pictures of this and asking, “So, what do I do with my past? How do I handle thoughts and feelings about my past? Do I just pretend those things never happened?”

TWO ASPECTS OF THE PAST: MY OWN SINS AND THOSE OF OTHERS

It occurs to me that there are two aspects of our past that can prevent us from living fully in the present. First, there are my own sins and failures. There are the things that I have said and done in violation and rebellion against God’s moral Law and have thus wounded others, and these things now bring me the pain of shame and guilt and regret. How can I ever remove these black marks from my past when the sins are committed, and the words are said and cannot be taken back and are etched in history’s stone? Who will set me free from this guilt and shame (Romans 7:24)? The good news of Jesus Christ answers this question, because most of what the Bible has to say about our past and about how we are to deal with our past is focused on this aspect of our past. The Bible declares that, “Though your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, they will be like wool (Isaiah 1:18).” The Bible proclaims that, because the Lord Jesus Christ died on Calvary’s cross, your sins can be forgiven and your guilt and shame can be removed if you will place your faith in Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. The gospel, and only the gospel, offers forgiveness, full and free, from all your sins and failures (John 8:36).  

But the second aspect of our past that can prevent us from living in the present is the things that have been done to us by others. This second aspect has to do with dealing with how others have wounded and harmed us. People can often be thoughtless, and they can be intentionally cruel, and they can inflict deep and long-lasting damage to us. But regardless of who or how the damage is done, we are the ones who must mend and forgive and untangle and resolve and defang these deep pains from our past. These kinds of wounds can stay with us a long time and can leave us trapped in the wreckage of the past. How do we deal with this part of our past? How are we able to bury these specters from the past so that we can live and flourish in the present?

JOSEPH RECEIVED CRUEL AND EVIL TREATMENT, AND YET . . .

            Joseph was the favorite son of his father, Jacob. Then one day, while obeying his father’s instructions to find his ten older brothers (Genesis 37), his brothers conspired together to strip off his special coat and to throw him into a pit to die. Before they could kill Joseph, however, some slave traders come along, and the ten older brothers decide to sell Joseph to the slave traders heading to Egypt. When Joseph is gone, they dip his robe into goat’s blood and tell his father that he is dead. Meanwhile, as a slave in Egypt, Joseph is falsely accused and thrown into an Egyptian prison. Here is a man who should have been trapped by his past and by the evil that was done to him by others. Here is a man whose major hope for the future would be to get out of prison so he can take revenge on his brothers.

            But that is not what we find. Through God’s providence and God’s plan, Joseph is dramatically promoted from prison to the palace and is made second in charge to Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. And what does he do with the pain of his past?

MANASSEH AND EPHRAIM

            Pharaoh gives Joseph a wife and through her, Joseph has two sons. He names the firstborn Manasseh, for “God has made me forget all my hardship and all my father’s house (Genesis 41:51).” The name of the second he called Ephraim, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction (41:52).” Joseph is able to break free of the poison of his past because he focuses on what God is doing, and he focuses on God’s goodness. It is as if he says, “Yes, people can be cruel and evil, but God is good and I will rejoice in Him and I will trust Him to run His universe as He sees fit.” Joseph could have remained trapped in the past, bitter and vengeful and blaming others for his pain, but he chooses instead to trust the Lord and to live in the present and to do today what God has commanded him to do today.

RECONCILES WITH HIS BROTHERS

            What will Joseph do with his feelings toward his brothers? How can he ignore the hateful evil that they did to him, throwing their own brother in a pit and then selling him off to slave traders? But even in this Joseph will not be a slave to his past. He will not be trapped in the pit of self-pity or in the chains of revenge. Instead, when he finally confronts his brothers, the men who robbed him of his home and of the peacefulness of his youth, he says, “And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life (Genesis 45:5).” Joseph knows the God is the one who used the evil deeds of his brothers to preserve life in Egypt. God is the one in control. and God is good. God has made Joseph lord of all Egypt (45:9). Joseph focuses on God and is thus able to escape the slavery to his past. So, Joseph chooses to forgive his brothers and not to hold them under his judgment, and thus is able to live and love in the present. At the end of this scene, Joseph “kissed his brothers and wept on them, and afterward his brothers talked with him (45:15).”

CONFESSION OF SIN AND FORGIVENESS AT LAST

            Joseph has been freed from his past, and he has forgiven his brothers’ sins against him, but because his brothers have never admitted (confessed) their evil to Joseph and have never asked for his forgiveness, they remained trapped in the past. They remain fearful that Joseph may some day remember the evil that they have done to him and may take revenge. But finally, the brothers, too, are set free from the evil that they did to Joseph. “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, for they did you wrong (Genesis 50:17).” Joseph responds to their request for forgiveness by weeping, as all the evil of the past and its pain finally rolls away, and he says, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good to preserve many people alive (Genesis 50:19-20).”

FORGETTING THE PAST SO WE CAN FULLY LIVE IN THE PRESENT

            By fixing his focus on God, and not on the evil deeds of men, Joseph is able to move past his past, so that he can fully live in the present. The Lord has given him the ability to forgive his brothers so he can forget their cruelty to him. He thus forgets what lies behind, so that he can be free to embrace what lies ahead (Philippians 3:12-14). When we focus on the Lord and His goodness, we remove from our past the power to enslave us and we can joyfully live in the present.

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