Where does true greatness come from? The answer is revealed in one of the most unique meetings in Scripture. Joseph rose to a position of great prominence in Egypt, second only to Pharaoh himself. When he brought his family to Egypt he introduced his father, Jacob, to Pharaoh. Genesis 47:7-10 records the meeting between these two men:
Then Joseph brought in his father Jacob and set him before Pharaoh; and Jacob blessed Pharaoh. Pharaoh said to Jacob, “How old are you?” And Jacob said to Pharaoh, “The days of the years of my pilgrimage are one hundred and thirty years; few and evil have been the days of the years of my life, and they have not attained to the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage.” So Jacob blessed Pharaoh, and went out from before Pharaoh.
Two Very Different Men
Pharaoh was the ruler of the known world. He was the wealthiest, most powerful man in his day. He lived a life of luxury and extravagance few can imagine, even being an object of worship by his people. This helps explain why four centuries later God destroyed Pharaoh and his nation with the worst plagues ever known. The Lord convinced the world there’s only one God, and it’s not Pharaoh. Before that though, nobody was greater or more impressive than Pharaoh. At least from an earthly perspective. Continue reading Where true greatness comes from…
The next few posts will discuss the Beatitudes in Luke 6:20-23, and I thought it would be fitting to begin by providing some tips for understanding them correctly.
TIP 1: THE BEATITUDES DISCUSS SPIRITUAL FAVOR.
The Greek word for blessed is makarios, and it means, “happy, fortunate, blissful.” The word “beatitude” comes from the Latin word for “happiness.” We associate happiness with feelings and circumstances: “I feel happy, because _______.”
But this isn’t what Jesus meant by the word blessed: “Blessed are you who weep now” (Luke 6:21). People weeping don’t feel too happy. Instead, Jesus is describing blessings based not on physical circumstances, but on spiritual status with God. Jesus is discussing the special joy for those favored by God and able to experience His grace.
TIP 2: THE BEATITUDES ARE BLESSINGS FOR BELIEVERS.
In yesterday’s Easter sermon, Genesis 22:1-4 A Father’s Love, I discussed the primary purpose of the Old Testament: leading us to Christ. Paul said, “The law was our tutor to bring us to Christ” (Gal 3:24). After we’ve come to Christ, the New Testament contains a number of verses discussing the new relationship believers have to the Law. We are “free from the Law” (Rom 7:3), “dead to the Law” (Rom 7:4 & Gal 2:19), “delivered from the Law” (Rom 7:6) and “no longer under the Law” (Gal 3:25 & 5:18). In Romans 10:4 Paul said, “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” and in Galatians 3:19 he said the Law was only “until the Seed (Jesus) should come.”
You could read all these verses and wonder what this means for us as believers: “What should we think of the Old Testament? What should be our relationship to it as New Testament believers? Is the Old Testament as beneficial as the New Testament?”
Considering how much I’ve taught from the Old Testament, I’d like to hope it’s obvious to my congregation how much I love it, value it, and recognize its equality with the New Testament. The fact is, Scripture nowhere presents any books or verses – say nothing about Testaments – as being superior to another. The blessings God’s Word afford are afforded from anywhere in Scripture. Every verse accomplishes the following blessings…
Equips: All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Tim 3:16, 17).
Cleanses: Christ…cleanses [the church] with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. (Eph 5:26, 27).
Convicts: For the Word of Godis living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Heb 4:12).
Sanctifies: Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth (John 17:17).
Imparts faith: Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Rom 10:17).
One of the other blessings of the Old Testament is it provides examples for us to learn from:
Romans 15:4—For whatever things were written before [referring to the Old Testament] were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.
1 Corinthians 10:11—Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
The Old Testament provides a backdrop for New Testament instruction. Certain accounts and individuals in the Old Testament help us make practical application of New Testament commands. Sometimes the individuals will serve as positive examples through their obedience, while other times they will serve as negative examples through their disobedience.
Tuesday night I was at the young men’s study and Brendan covered Proverbs 3:8 which discusses obedience bringing “health to your body and nourishment to your bones.” I thought this was interesting because we don’t normally think of the physical benefits of obedience; usually we just think of obeying God affecting us spiritually, and perhaps mentally or emotionally. If we do think of the physical consequences of sin our minds immediately go to struggles with drugs or alcohol, but sin in general takes a physical toll on us. Listen to these words from David following his sin: “My bones wasted and I groaned all day long…my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer” (Psa 32:3-4), “My strength fails because of my iniquity, and my body wastes away” (Psa 31:10), and, “There is no health in my bones because of my sin” (Psa 38:3).
This past week I was watching a health lecture on YouTube. The doctor was talking about ways to avoid disease, keep a strong immune system, stay young, etc. He went through the normal recommendations regarding nutrition, exercise, sleep, etc. Then he started talking about avoiding things like bitterness, anger, and even unforgiveness. He described what happens in our bodies when we get angry: capillaries restrict, the heart has to work much harder, hormone levels are negatively affected, we become less reasonable, and our bodies become slower to heal, and experience poorer pulmonary function. One study showed individuals with the highest levels of anger had twice the risk of coronary artery disease and three times the risk of heart attack.
It was pretty hard to believe, but some scientists claimed chronic anger may be more dangerous than smoking and obesity as factors contributing to early death. The bible also tells us not to worry, and there’s plenty of evidence to show the physical harm in worrying. God’s Word is filled with tremendous spiritual, mental, emotional and physical ways to be blessed. Instead of milk it should say, “Obeying God does a body good.”
As most of you know, last Saturday night we held a service at Green Hills School. I think because it’s called a school, I wasn’t aware of the fact that it’s actually a maximum-security detention center for individuals 17 to 21 years of age. I asked the serving chaplain what could land the young men there and he said, “Anything and everything. Murder, rape, you name it.”
When the young men entered the auditorium (we’d been waiting about ten minutes for them), I’m not sure what exactly I anticipated, but based on what the chaplain said, I wasn’t expecting them to be the kind of audience they were: attentive, respectful, appreciative, etc. From the bottom corner seat I was in a position to have all the young men on my left and our choir on the stage in front of me.
I couldn’t help looking back and forth between them. Our youth looked nicely dressed, wholesome, modest, conservative, while the young men from the center obviously had a rougher look to them. I wondered what their lives would be like if they’d grown up in the homes of our youth? How many of them would be standing on the stage instead of sitting in the chairs? What if they’d had the Christian influence that’s been afforded to so many of us? What if they’d been hearing the Bible since they were young? What if they’d grown up in church surrounded by Christian friends?
Similarly, what if some of our youth grew up in their homes? Would any of our youth be sitting in their seats instead of standing on the stage? Whether young or old, I think all of us that have grown up in the church should be thankful for those heritages, appreciating many others haven’t received the same. We should recognize the great accountability and responsibility we have before God to live up to that kind of blessing. I have no doubt there are plenty of people who’d give almost anything to have experienced the childhoods many of us have been afforded.
Our pride encourages us to imagine such differences between others and ourselves; we think we’re so much better and different. We commonly think, “I can’t believe he did that…” or “I would never do what she did…” but John Bradford famously said, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.” I think we could all say that.