Then he said, “Let the Lord not be angry, and I will speak one more time. Suppose 10 are found there?” He answered, “I will not destroy it on account of 10.” – Genesis 18:32
When Abraham learned of God’s planned destruction of Lot’s hometown (the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah), he began to bargain for the salvation of his kin. The number that they eventually agreed upon was 10. If 10 righteous people could be found, God would spare the cities.
But 10 could not be found … nor eight … nor five … in fact, not even two. Perhaps only one, Lot himself, but even his walk was suspect for he continued to dwell in the midst of such wickedness. Did God know the number of righteous in Sodom and Gomorrah? Absolutely. He also knew the depth of their depravity. Lot and his daughters escaped by God’s grace, not their goodness. They were indeed saved, but the only ONE that mattered in this grace equation was God Himself.
And He is the only ONE that makes the difference for you and me.
Now for my own case, I bless the Lord that, for all that hath been said of me, my conscience doth not condemn me. I do not say I am free of sin, but I am at peace with God through a slain Mediator; and I believe that there is no salvation but only in Christ. – Donald Cargill
If you mistreat my daughters or take other wives, though no one is with us, understand that God will be a witness between you and me. – Genesis 31:50
Have you truly comprehended the sobering truth that your entire life is lived before God?
My wife has been a witness to over 41 years of my life. My mother was a witness to another 17, but there are plenty of moments within my 61+ years when neither my wife nor my mother were present. My brother and I shared moments that neither one of them experienced (whew!). Of course, others were there … friends, colleagues, teammates … even strangers. Yet even with all of these witnesses, only One saw everything.
Many can testify to a part of your life, but only One can testify to the whole. He is indeed “my Witness” … He is your witness … and He is Judge. He has seen it all with divine clarity and ultimately, it is only His opinion that truly matters. But make no mistake, it matters … a lot.
Before God we are all equally wise – and equally foolish. – Albert Einstein
The sun shone on him as he passed by Penuel — limping because of his hip. – Genesis 32:31
Do you limp?
Jacob met God at Penuel and, as a result, limped for the rest of his life. From the moment that he wrestled with the Almighty, Israel’s life was drastically changed and (due to the encounter) his walk was altered. The events of Penuel injured Jacob forever.
If you have never been wounded by God, then I am confident you have never met Him. A personal encounter with His Majesty will bear the unmistakable mark of His presence … and the injury will indeed show. Your “walk” will also be altered and the change will most likely be noticeable to those whom you encounter.
The Apostle Paul bore many marks (he called them “brand-marks”) and said that the strength of God was made perfect in his weakness. This is why we must be wounded … touched … made weak. This is why we limp.
He must increase, but I must decrease. – John, the Baptist (John 3:30)
When Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped off his robe, the robe of many colors that he had on. Then they took him and threw him into the pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it. – Genesis 37:23-24
Have you ever fallen into a pit … on the way to accomplishing your dream?
This is the familiar story of Joseph. Possessed by dreams of greatness, Joseph was cast into a pit by his own brothers. Perhaps he was blind to their jealousy and the danger ahead. Maybe he believed that his dream came with a tribulation-free lifetime guarantee. One thing is certain, God knew Joseph’s heart better than he knew it himself and this was only the first challenge that Joseph would eventually face. There would be more.
On your path to God’s preferred future there will be many “pits.” Yet, in the process of revealing your heart through trial and tribulation, God will also show you His. Ultimately, we must all work out what God is working within.
So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now even more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose. – Paul (Philippians 2:12-13)
So Joseph was there in prison. But the LORD was with Joseph and extended kindness to him. – Genesis 39:20-21
In comparison to the trials and sufferings around the world, life in the “West” is pretty good. Sure, sometimes things don’t go well. In fact, they go poorly, but we might exaggerate our “difficulties” a bit (first world problems). Then again, personal difficulties are … well … personal and often overwhelming! So why does God allow them? Why not keep such things from us? Certainly He could if He wanted.
The biblical record states that while Joseph was in prison, the Lord was with him and showed him kindness. God stood by (it seems), allowed Joseph to be falsely accused and imprisoned, then sustained him during his incarceration. What? Why?
It is an observable principle that light shines brightest in the night and likewise, it is God’s transcendent goodness that sustains us in our most difficult days. Trials and tribulations will certainly come in this life, but so will God … and with each test, we see Him more clearly and lean on Him more strongly. Though the days may be evil and full of trouble, His goodness shines in us and through us … if we will just let it.
The essence of optimism is that it takes no account of the present, but it is a source of inspiration, of vitality and hope where others have resigned; it enables a man to hold his head high, to claim the future for himself and not to abandon it to his enemy. – Dietrich Bonhoeffer
He said to his brothers, “My money has been returned! It’s here in my bag.” Their hearts sank. Trembling, they turned to one another and said, “What is this that God has done to us?” – Genesis 42:28
Within the story of Joseph’s brothers, we observe the power of unconfessed sin. From the moment they threw Joseph down an empty well, up to the future meeting where he would reveal his true identity, it is obvious that they all carried an immense burden of guilt … a burden that resulted in a constant fear of God’s punishment. Every single malady in their lives was interpreted as an act of God for their misdeeds. Even many years later, they continued to “hear” the cries of their brother as he begged for his freedom (42:21).
Have you sinned? Do you carry it like a millstone around your neck looking for some release? The burden will never leave you, until you confess it to God and the person you offended. It is not too late. Like Joseph’s brothers, the fact that you are still aware of your fault is proof that God desires you to do something … for His glory, for the other person, and for your own well-being.
If you don’t confess and repent, you will not be able to escape your own sin-dug pit of despondency, fear, and guilt … no matter how much you beg.
The confession of evil works is the first beginning of good works. – Augustine of Hippo
Therefore it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household, and ruler over all the land of Egypt. – Genesis 45:8
Is God sovereign or not?
Under some circumstances, this question is a little more difficult to answer in the affirmative. For example, Joseph saw the sovereignty of God in his life, but I am pretty sure that he often wondered, “Why am I here? What is God doing?”
Of course, God is Lord … of all … or He cannot be properly called Lord. He never abdicates His sovereign rule … ever. When things are beyond understanding our task is simple. We must: 1) Give Him glory, 2) Wait for Him to act, and 3) Trust that He will act in a way that accomplishes His eternal plan.
We will understand it better by and by … or we won’t … or in His presence it won’t matter, but He will still be sovereign.
Our fates are in the hands of an Almighty God, to whom I can with pleasure confide my own; He can save us, or destroy us; His Councils are fixed and cannot be disappointed, and all His designs will be accomplished. – Abraham Clark