Sermon series

The Church: A Christ-Centered Community

A Christ-Centered Community sermon notes

The Church: Called out as a Christ-Centered Community

Passage: Various

Sunday July 16, 2017

Pastor Paul L. Davis

 

Key Goals: (Know) To understand the centrality of Christ in the church. (Feel) To develop a primary love for Christ. (Do) To love the Lord with all of our heart.

Introduction: It begins when we are very young. As children, it looks like snatching a toy away from someone else and saying, “Mine!” Or in elementary school it is when we clamor and fight to be the first in line or the first chosen. In middle school, it often shows up as pouting, sulking, or moodiness. It is the thought behind grabbing the last three pieces of pizza when there are still people in line behind you. In high school, it is revealed through cheating on tests, aggressive driving, and sneaking around in order to sin. It comes out in simple things from being grouchy in the morning to coming home late without calling. As we get older, it often becomes a little subtler, but it is still there: padding a resume, cheating on taxes, and stealing from work. It can look like excess: excess alcohol, buying more than we can afford, pursuing wealth, position, or secret affairs. But it is all fruit of the same problem: putting yourself first. It’s a bigger problem than we often think.

This isn’t a new problem. Putting yourself first began with Lucifer the “shining morning star,” second only to God in his beauty, one of the archangels created for the sole purpose of worshipping God in his holy presence. But he was not content to be second place; he wanted first. So Lucifer said this in his heart, “I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high… 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.“ (Isaiah 14:13–14)[1] Discontent with serving God, Lucifer wanted to be the “most high.” Ezekiel 28:17 tells us how God responded to Lucifer’s rebellion. “Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. I cast you to the ground.” God expelled Lucifer from heaven and cast him down to the earth, where he now destroys, deceives, and distracts us from putting God first in our lives.[2] I’ll come back to this problem in a minute.

This morning we are beginning a series on the church. We are going to tackle some tough questions very honestly. Questions like: Are we doing church right? Why do I have to be at church every week? Is church really something you have to join? Can I really trust church leadership? To begin, we need some definitions. What is the church? Well, it is not a denomination, a building, an organization, a club, or even a place of worship. The Greek word used in Scripture for church (Gk: ekklesia) literally means “those called out.” The idea is a group of people that have gathered because they were called to. Definition: Church - a called assembly of believers joined to Christ’s spiritual body by the Holy Spirit at the moment of regeneration, when they individually place their faith in the Lord Jesus as their Savior - who are committed to meet regularly for edification, worship, and participation in the ordinances.[3] We will dive deeper into this definition over the coming weeks, but this morning we are going to focus like a laser on the core of the church: our Lord Jesus Christ.

Nine years ago, the leadership of our church created a mission statement for this ministry. As we worked through the biblical texts for why our local church exists, we created a statement that communicates two purposes wrapped around a core: we exist to “Passionately pursue Christ and lovingly pursue others for Christ.” That’s it; it’s not complicated. Our church has two primary functions: the pursuit of Jesus Christ and the loving pursuit of other people for Jesus Christ. Two functions, but notice those functions revolve around Christ. He is at the core of our mission. He is the focal point of everything we are to be and do.

In Phil 3:7-9, the apostle Paul expressed this when he said, 7“I once thought other things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. 8 Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ 9 and become one with him.” Paul believed that the infinite value of knowing Christ made everything else in his life seem worthless. For the sake of knowing Christ, he discarded everything else. He counted everything else as garbage (literally excrement) when it was compared to knowing Christ. Is this our mindset? This is such critical thinking, especially when it comes to the church. It is so easy to think of our church in terms of programs, people, ministries, or even responsibility. When we think this way, it is easy to grow bitter, weary, and selfish—especially when we are under appreciated, overlooked, or left out. All of that is garbage compared to knowing Christ.

If you have ever been to a funeral that I have preached, you have heard me talk from Matthew 13. Please turn there for a moment. I go to this passage often, as it acts as a compass in my life, steering my heart in the right direction. Here we see two very short stories with one powerful message. 44 The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. 45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it. Only three verses, so simple you almost want to skim them and move on. Jesus was explaining to those who would follow him what following looks like. The two word pictures are a great pearl and a hidden treasure.

 

The Hidden Treasure (Matt 13:44)

In biblical times, wealth was troublesome because of its insecurity. Before the days of banks and safety deposit boxes, every man had to devise a way of concealing his wealth, or at least find some place where money, jewels, and other valuables might remain free from thieves and swindlers. Sometimes they would hide their treasures in secret closets in the house or in storage vaults under the house. It was common to have a secret burial spot in a field unknown to everyone except the owner. The best example of this happening is in Joshua 7:21 when Achan, after stealing treasures from Jericho, digs a hole under his tent to conceal them. Sometimes the owner went away and died and his secret died with him. Times of war left many treasures concealed. Even to this day, archeologists find buried treasures that were hidden in the ancient past. This year (2017) on March 19th, construction workers building a highway in Tel Aviv unearthed an ancient home and in a wall was treasure of bronze coins, hidden away for safekeeping.[4]

Jewish law was very clear. If you were the owner of a field with treasure in it, you were the automatic owner of that treasure.[5] In this parable, the man finds a great treasure! This treasure is worth everything. In his joy of finding the treasure, the man sells all that he has to attain the field. There is no halfway commitment. He is not double-minded. He has assessed the value of the treasure and it is more than worth everything he has. So, he sells it all to attain the treasure. Why? Why does he have to sell in order to buy? Jesus put it this way in Luke 16:13. No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.

At the very heart of our gathering, serving, teaching, praying, singing, and giving must be a pursuit of the treasure—the treasure of knowing Jesus Christ! When it is your turn to serve in the nursery and you wake up not wanting to do it, do not tell yourself that you “have an obligation.” That’s not the treasure! Remind yourself that your service to children this morning is you counting your comfort as garbage compared to the treasure of Christ. There is nothing more important in this world than us pursuing the treasure of Christ and leading our children to find that same hidden treasure.

 

The Pearl of Great Price (Matt 13:45-46)

This parable is just as simple but with a different nuance. 45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it. Every one of us spends our lives “seeking pearls.” I don’t care who you are, we all go through life looking for what is valuable, and we barter and trade for it. We trade time for education, money for homes and cars. We trade singleness for marriage and sometimes we trade our career for the sake of children or family.

In this parable, we are the merchants in search of some of those fine pearls. There are certainly many good and fine pearls in this life to pursue (spouse, children, friendship). But the merchant finds one pearl of great value, Jesus Christ, and he is willing to part with everything to attain it; he again sells all that he has to have this one thing. The question that should come to your mind is, in all our trading as merchants, have we attained the Pearl? We can spend our life trading for trinkets, or we can look for, pursue, go after the pearl of great value. Nothing compares to him. Nothing.

Look, this is a sermon about the church. I am not telling you that “church” has to be the most important thing in your life, but Jesus does. If there is anything in your life that stands in opposition to Christ, sell it! If there is anything in your life in competition with him, sell it! The pattern of passionately pursuing Christ is leaving all and following him.

 

Jesus was very clear with his disciples about who was to be first in their lives.

  • Jesus called his disciples to leave all and follow him (Luke 5:11, 28).
  • Jesus told his disciples that unless their love for him made their love for their father and mother look like hate, they were not worthy of him (Luke 14:26).
  • Jesus sent the rich young ruler away sad because he refused to put Christ above his covetousness (Mk. 10:17-27).

 

Why? Because Jesus is selfish and wants us all to himself? No! Because getting him, knowing him, is of infinite worth! His value is stunning! His beauty and holiness are beyond compare. Everything else is trash and worthless compared to him. 

 

Let me finish very practically. Every Sunday when you wake up, what should your mindset be? How do we practically, as a church, put Christ first? Sunday mornings are a time to savor our treasure. Listen to Eph. 1:4-5. Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. 5 God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. God derived “great pleasure” from adopting us into his family. Bringing us to him is his great joy. On Sunday mornings, we have the joy of gathering together as family and enjoying him, savoring him, worshipping him. The Scriptures encourage us to “taste and see that the Lord is good!” (Ps 34:8)

Sunday mornings are a time to sell our selfishness, comfort, and covetousness. I met with a guy not long ago who told me that he honestly struggled being with the church on Sundays. This is what he said, “When I get there, I’m always glad I did, but it is so hard motivating myself to get going in the morning.” I think that is an honest description of what everyone feels from time to time. But—and this is important—fighting our flesh and selfishness early on Sunday mornings is a central piece of living a Christ-centered life.

The community of the church is uniquely designed to help us sell our selfishness. We have to work together, prefer others over ourselves, give up our seat, serve in the nursery, give from our wealth, teach a class, lead a group. All of these acts are unselfish and many times downright uncomfortable. But when you find the treasure, when you find the pearl…you sell everything you have to get it!

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul L. Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

 

 

[1] Scripture quotations are from the ESV Bible.

[2] M. S. Mills, The Life of Christ: A Study Guide to the Gospel Record (Dallas, TX: 3E Ministries, 1999), Is 14:12–Eze 28:19.

[3] Norman L. Geisler, Systematic Theology, Volume Four: Church, Last Things (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 2005).

[4] http://hamodia.com/2017/03/19/ancient-buried-treasure-discovered-under-brand-new-highway/

[5] Read more about this in…Freeman, J. M., & Chadwick, H. J. (1998). Manners & customs of the Bible (Rev. ed.].) (438). North Brunswick, NJ: Bridge-Logos Publishers.

The Rebuild: Patience

The Rebuild: Patience sermon notes

Patience

Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

The Church @ Hamilton

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Pastor Paul L. Davis

 

Key Goals: (Know) Understand the important of patience. (Feel) Feel compelled to fix our eyes on Jesus. (Do) Be patient.

Introduction: Over the last two weeks in our series on James, we have explored two formidable enemies of rebuilding our lives: arrogance and self-indulgence. This series has been built on the idea that anyone, regardless of where they are starting, can rebuild their life with the gospel. Jesus transforms our brokenness into purpose, and this book has been written to help us do that. This morning is critical! In our passage, James will call us to an incredibly important rebuilding tool. It is one we often joke about praying for, but its power to transform your life, your marriage, and your parenting is second to none. Please turn to James 5 James 5:7–12[1]. We will read the passage and then dive into the meat of it.

7 Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. 8 You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.

 9 Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. 10 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

 

One of the most important life lessons everyone has to learn is how to respond correctly when you have been wronged. It happens to everyone—at some point in our lives we will all be wounded! Often we are surprised by it; we are living life happily, delighting in how blessed we are, and then wham! A difficult trial hits us broadside: a family member betrays us, someone at work spreads malicious gossip about us, someone we look up to at church severely disappoints us, we discover a close friend’s secret sin. We are shocked, angered, and disoriented. We begin to wonder, “Is there anyone I can trust?” How do you respond? With frustration or anger? Do you grumble and complain? Get even? How do we rebuild from here? Our passage this morning is the passage you turn to when you are working through hardship and betrayal. There are two key words in this passage: patience and steadfastness. The word patience shows up four times (v.7-2x, 8,10) and steadfastness twice (v. 11-2x).

 

The first thing we need to understand about patience is that patience is something you are not something you do. Look at verse 7. Be patient, therefore, brothers. Then look at verse 8, You also, be patient… James does not tell us to do patience, he tells us to be patient. Be the type of person who is patient. Patience is the ability to endure a great deal of mistreatment from people or circumstances without losing your temper, becoming irritated or angry, and without taking vengeance. The Greek is a combination of two words: long and spirit/soul, so a patient person is a “long-souled” person. Some languages describe patience as “a heart that remains seated during provocation.”

 

Patience is often associated with wisdom (Proverbs 19:11 Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense) and it includes the ability to bear pain or trials without complaint, and to suffer long under provocation. It is a fruit of the Spirit much like self-control, the combination of which keeps us from acting impulsively or sinfully in the heat of adversity.[2] It is important as we define patience to understand that patience is not passivity (unresponsiveness) or indulgence (tolerance). Patience is the loving and merciful response to being wronged, sinned against, neglected, or abused. God is our ultimate example of patience. In Matthew 18:23-34, Jesus used a story to give us a glimpse of what God’s patience looks like.

 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.

28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.

 

This parable deserves its own sermon, but the key aspect that I want us to catch is how and from where we derive our patience. Our ability to be patient flows from how God has treated us. He has been so merciful to us. How many times have we sinned against him? 1 John 1:9 promises us that If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. How many times? 7? It is unlimited. God has forgiven all of our sins through Christ Jesus! Psalm103:12 declares that our sins have been removed from us as far as the East is from the West! God’s “long-spiritedness” or patience with us is what drives our ability to be patient.

 

Lets’ go back to James 5, because James doesn’t just tell us to “be patient,” he gives us three beautiful visions of what patience looks like in real life.

 

1. Patience looks like a farmer waiting (James 5:7-8)

The farmer pictured here is the sustenance farmer of first century Palestine. He plants his carefully saved seed and hopes for a harvest, living on short rations and suffering hunger during the last weeks. His whole livelihood, indeed his life and the life of his family, depend on a good harvest; the loss of the farm, semi-starvation, or death could result from a bad year. So the farmer patiently waits for an expected future event; no one but him knows how important this harvest really is, but he must be patient no matter how hungry he becomes.[3] He knows that if he is patient until after the “later rains,” there is a reward, so he works and waits because of the coming reward. Just like that farmer, James tells us that we believers can be patient because we have a coming reward— the coming of the Lord. The Bible tells us repeatedly to anticipate Jesus’ return.

  • Revelation 3:11 I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown
  • Philippians 4:5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand.

 

The Scriptures teach that Jesus could return today. We are encouraged to live like we believe that! Think about this: if you knew that Jesus was going to return at 12:59pm today, would you have been a little more patient with your children this morning? Here is the reality: the hardships, betrayals, and frustrations we are working through with people who drive us crazy will soon be over. So be patient. Be compassionate and merciful like the Lord has been with you. He is returning soon.

 

A Quick Warning: Now before he gives us the last two visions of patience, James drops in a warning about grumbling against one another in verse 9. The thing we need to know about grumbling is that it is the antithesis of patience. Grumbling is neither merciful nor compassionate. God is once again our example in this; God does not grumble about our faults and failures, instead he continues to love despite them. But just like Jesus’ parable in Matthew 18, if we refuse to change, God will judge. Look at verse 9. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. So the return of Christ is both an encouragement to be patient and a warning not to grumble.

 

2. Patience looks like the prophets remaining steadfast (James 5:9-11)

God’s prophets endured incredible wrongs at the hands evil doers as well as from God’s people. Hebrews 11:35–37 lists some of the things done to them. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated…These prophets all suffered because of their faith, yet in their suffering they patiently endured and stood fast in their faith. The word translated steadfast carries the idea of “clinging or cleaving to God.” Courageous endurance is another possible translation.  

 

A hard reality of life is that doing God’s will often leads to suffering. The prophets bore up under suffering and maintained their spiritual integrity, waiting patiently for the Lord himself to intervene to transform their situations. Regardless of what the world throws against us, the patient person clings courageously to God. Hard stuff does not blow us off course because we are moored to Jesus. We can endure because we have an anchor, a sure foundation, a rock that will not move. Have you tied yourself to Christ like that? We know tough times are coming. Are you connected to Christ in such a way that when the winds blow you will remain steadfast? Verse 10 ends with Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. This verse is a pretty clear promise: we will be blessed if we remain steadfast in our faith and patient with others.[4]

 

3. Patience looks like Job eventually seeing God’s purpose (James 5:11)

The last, and I think best, reason for us to “be patient” is the lesson we learn from Job’s life: our present suffering is never the “end” of our story, because when Christ is revealed in glory we will be like him.[5] Our story will end like Job’s, not with suffering but with joy! I was reading this passage to Esther Harrington just this week. Revelation 21:4 He will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. Job suffered miserably. Satan desired to destroy his faith but he couldn’t do it—not because Job was a “super Christian,” but because Job was tied unshakably (steadfastly) to his Lord. He patiently endured everything Satan could throw at him, and in the end the Lord proved himself merciful and compassionate.

 

Rebuilding with Patience: We have work to do. If you have a short fuse, you are not patient. If you snap at your kids over minor, childish things, you need to grow patient. Those of us easily frustrated with the driver in front of us are not patient. When we are quick to find fault with co-workers’ failures, we are not patient. That exasperated ‘sigh’ when you’re asked to do something? That is impatience.

 

What needs to change? James tells us right in the middle of this passage. Look back at verse 8. I purposely skipped over it. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. James tells us to establish our hearts. It is a command, an imperative. Now the Greek word for “establish” can also mean “strengthen,” but these two words don’t help me much. I struggle to know what it means to “strengthen or establish my heart.” So let me share with you one other way this Greek word is translated, because the word is also found in Amos 9:4. …there I will command the sword, and it shall kill them; and I will fix my eyes upon them for evil and not for good. That phrase “I will fix my eyes upon them” is the same word as “establish.” The idea is this: patience flows from fixing our eyes upon Jesus and not on the circumstances we are facing. Fix your eyes; set and establish your heart in Jesus! Look for his return, trust in his promises, refuse to let temporary circumstances drive your attitudes and feelings. It’s just wind, and you are tied to the rock!

 

  

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul L. Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.

 

 

Community Group Questions

1.          Read James 5:7-11 out loud with your group. Discuss key words or phrases that jump out of the text.

2.          What is your typical response when you are wronged? How have you grown over the years?

3.          Discuss the farmer analogy. How does farming help us understand patience?

4.          Why do you think James so closely ties patience and steadfastness? Can you have one without the other?

5.          Read Rev. 21:4; discuss how verses like this can get people through difficult times.

 

[1] All Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV.

[2] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, “Patience,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 1619.

[3] Peter H. Davids, The Epistle of James: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1982), 183.

[4] Peter H. Davids, The Epistle of James: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1982), 186.

[5] Douglas J. Moo, The Letter of James, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos, 2000), 230.

Joseph: Making Things Right

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Making Things Right Sermon Notes

Making Things Right

Genesis 42

 

Key Goals: (Know) Understand the power of our conscience. (Feel) Desire to clear our conscience. (Do) Choose to challenge ourselves.

 

Introduction: 20 years is a long time; a lot can happen in 20 years. In 20 years you can finish your education, get married and start a family. In 20 years you can build a career or a business—you could even become wealthy and famous. In 20 years you can also go from being a teenage Hebrew sheepherder to one of the most powerful men in the world. That’s what Joseph did. Here’s one thing you can’t do in 20 years: you can’t erase a guilty conscience. Our conscience is an odd thing. It’s like a moral barometer of the soul that senses when we’ve done wrong. We all have one.[1] I like having a conscience; I know mine keeps me out of a lot of trouble. It helps me remember important things, it prompts me when I’m neglecting or hurting key relationships in my life, and it provokes me to make things right with people I have offended.

 

I wonder if Joseph’s brothers liked having a conscience. Maybe they were under the illusion that time would remove their guilt. After all, they hadn’t seen or heard from Joseph since the day they tossed him in the pit, pulled him out again, sold him to the Midianites, and then watched as that caravan dragged him away naked and in chains, a slave on his way to Egypt. 20 years later the brothers assumed he was dead. Slaves didn’t have a long lifespan. With Joseph dead, their secret was safe. Even if their conscience jabbed them from time to time, they were learning to deal with it, to push down the feelings of guilt. Who would ever find out? After all, when you are dead, you are dead. There is nothing you can do, right? But Joseph wasn’t dead—far from it. He was living 300 miles south of them in a lavish palace, as the second most powerful man on the planet. His brother hadn’t a clue, and because there was no such thing as a Bible yet, they did not know several Bible verses that could have helped them: Be sure your sin will find you out. (Numbers 32:23 NIV) or Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. (Galatians 6:7 NIV)

 

Nine years have passed since Joseph rose to power in Egypt. Joseph is 39 years old, and because of his wisdom, the entire world was coming to him for food. Everything has happened exactly as he said it would. Seven good years yielded grain abundantly—so much grain that it could not be measured (Gen 41:49). This morning we enter the story two years into the seven lean years, and times are very tough; the nations around Egypt are starving. In Canaan, where Joseph’s brothers and father Jacob live, the land is devastated. Jacob hears there is food in Egypt. Please turn to Genesis 42:1–5[2].

 

When Jacob learned that there was grain for sale in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why do you look at one another?” 2 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.” Only two years into the famine, and Jacob is worried that the entire family is in danger of dying. 3 So ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain in Egypt. 4 But Jacob did not send Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, with his brothers, for he feared that harm might happen to him. 5 Thus the sons of Israel came to buy among the others who came, for the famine was in the land of Canaan. End of verse 6… Joseph’s brothers came and bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground.

 

Remember the dream? Joseph’s first one (Gen 37:6-8) where he is a sheaf of grain and all the other sheaves bow down to him? It’s happening; the brothers are there to buy grain, and they are bowing to him and they don’t even know it! It would have been a miracle if they had recognized Joseph. He was 17 when they sold him; he is now 40 and completely Egyptian. What would Joseph have looked like? We don’t know, but we can take a guess. We know that the richer an Egyptian was, the more makeup he wore. They shaved or plucked all their hair, and loved light skin with no wrinkles. Joseph would have been unrecognizable to his brothers, who would have had full beards, long hair, and dark skin. 7 Joseph saw his brothers and recognized them, but he treated them like strangers and spoke roughly to them. “Where do you come from?” he said. They said, “From the land of Canaan, to buy food.”

 

And then Joseph does something strange. He accuses them of being spies, a serious charge that would bring a death sentence. Of course the brothers immediately begin to defend themselves, declaring boldly that they are honest men (42:11). Joseph knows that they are not as honest as they claim to be, so he presses them more. As they continue their defense, verse 13 reveals something. They said, “We, your servants, are twelve brothers, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan, and behold, the youngest is this day with our father, and one is no more.”  It is interesting that even after 20 years they still think of themselves as “12 brothers.” It is also clear that they think Joseph is dead. So Joseph hatches a plan. (Remember, as we continue this story, Pharaoh believes that Joseph is the wisest man in the kingdom. I think it would be foolish for us to assume Joseph doesn’t have a plan.) He is going to test his brothers to find out what kind of men they have become. In verse 15 he says to them, “By this you shall be tested: by the life of Pharaoh, you shall not go from this place unless your youngest brother comes here. 16 Send one of you, and let him bring your brother, while you remain confined, that your words may be tested, whether there is truth in you.”

 

And then he throws them in jail for three days to think about it. It is on the third day, when Joseph comes to see them, that we observe a huge turning point in these men’s lives. Skim down to verse 21—the brothers are talking among themselves. Then they said to one another, “In truth we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us and we did not listen. That is why this distress has come upon us.” 22 And Reuben answered them, “Did I not tell you not to sin against the boy? But you did not listen. So now there comes a reckoning for his blood.” After 20 years, as soon as a difficult situation arises, they immediately attribute their difficulties to their guilt for selling and killing Joseph. These are men with a guilty conscience. Reuben reveals why he didn’t want his brothers to kill Joseph in the first place. Since there was no Bible, and the Ten Commandments didn’t yet exist, where would Reuben have come up with the idea that there would be a “reckoning” (interesting word—an accounting word) for Joseph’s blood? He got it from Genesis 9. Turn there for a moment.

 

Because of incredible violence, God has flooded and destroyed the entire earth. Noah has just left the ark and is ready to repopulate the earth with his family. God gives Noah two commands. The first is to be fruitful and multiply (9:1) and the second is found in Genesis 9:5–6. And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning (same word Reuben uses): from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. 6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image. These are the only two laws of God at this time. Reuben and the brothers knew they had violated this law by killing Joseph, and their consciences immediately made the connection that it was “reckoning” time. You know how they were feeling—their consciences were pinging like crazy.

I wonder if this was new or if their consciences had been bothering them for a while. The Bible tells us that we can “sear our conscience.” I Timothy 4:2 talks about this. If we disobey our conscience repeatedly or if we refuse to develop deep-seated convictions around God’s moral law, then our sensitivity to moral issues becomes deadened. They just stop bothering us. This is a dangerous thing that Romans 1 tells us will lead to the darkening of our minds and a whole host of other issues.

 

The goal of the Christian believer is to develop a mature or healthy conscience, which will take two key elements:

1)         The Holy Spirit. Every believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit whose ministry to us includes the “conviction of sin.” (John 16:8)

2)         The Word of God: We need a deeply held love and understanding of the Word of God. The Bible gives us God’s will regarding moral issues; the Holy Spirit then enables us to “welcome, embrace” that truth (see 1 Corinthians 2:6-16), so that it transforms us from the inside out!

 

A warning: The New Testament talks about our conscience over 31 times. It is a gift from God and is meant to act like a dashboard warning light to keep us from sin and doing things that might injure ourselves, others, and our relationship with God. If we watch the dashboard and don’t ignore the warning lights, we will flourish spiritually. If we refuse to listen, refuse to study God’s Word, and if we decide to do our own thing our own way, the Bible tells us that God will abandon us and leave us to our own “foolish thinking.” Listen to how God responds to people who sear their conscience. Romans 1:28–32 (NLT) 

 

[God]…abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. 29 Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. 30 They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. 31 They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy. 32 They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too.

 

Are you listening to and growing a healthy conscience? Or is God abandoning you to your foolish thinking and evil actions? Perhaps you are feeling guilty for the first time in a while. Acts 3:19 (NIV) calls us to Repent, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.

 

Joseph treated his brothers harshly, but look closely at what happened. Perhaps for the first time in 20 years, his brothers are convicted of their sin. They realized, because they now needed mercy, that they refused to show mercy when Joseph cried for it in deep distress. Turn back to Genesis 42:23. They did not know that Joseph understood them, for there was an interpreter between them. 24 Then he turned away from them and wept… This whole conversation has happened right in front of Joseph because they didn’t think he could understand them! Can you imagine the emotions running through Joseph? The last time he saw his family, they viciously threw him into a pit and mercilessly sold him like a goat. As he listens to their discussions, he knows they think they killed him. Is it time for revenge? Forgiveness? Restitution? Punishment? Penance? Joseph has the power to do any or all of those, but instead he weeps. Look at the end of verse 24.

 

And he returned to them and spoke to them. And he took Simeon from them and bound him before their eyes. 25 And Joseph gave orders to fill their bags with grain, (here is the tricky part) and to replace every man’s money in his sack, and to give them provisions for the journey. This was done for them. 26 Then they loaded their donkeys with their grain and departed. 27 And as one of them opened his sack to give his donkey fodder at the lodging place, he saw his money in the mouth of his sack. 28 He said to his brothers, “My money has been put back; here it is in the mouth of my sack!” At this their hearts failed them, and they turned trembling to one another, saying, “What is this that God has done to us?”

 

Why all of a sudden do the brothers think God is behind this? Joseph, through his actions, has made these men see their weakness, their need for mercy, and that God is up to something. Joseph’s actions have activated their consciences.

 

This morning we all come here in one of two places: either we have been activating and growing our conscience or we have been searing and deadening our conscience. Perk up your ears and listen, church. Imagine a man walking in one direction who suddenly realizes that he is going in the wrong direction. He stops. He turns around. Then he begins walking in the new direction. It is a quick and simple process. He realizes. He stops. He turns. That is a healthy conscience at work. If you are in this spot, thank God and use your conscience to flourish in your walk with Christ. Now imagine a man in a sailboat, the wind at his back, sailing quickly in the wrong direction. Turning around is a hard and difficult process—he must turn into the wind, readjust the sails, and make sure his rudder is deep and true. Some of us are in this boat. In order to change, we need to grow our conscience. It will require some big adjustments to our thinking, and the winds of our past decisions, addictions, and relationships blow against us. If that’s you this morning, you need to do three things:

1)         Pray for the ministry of the Holy Spirit. (John 16:8) Right now. Pray that the Holy Spirit would reveal your sin to you and help you deal with it properly.

2)         Actively study the Word of God for the purpose of learning right and wrong and wisdom.

3)         Surround yourself with godly people who will help you activate your conscience.

 

Challenge by Choice: Right now, do you have a clear conscience? Is the warning light going off on the dashboard of your soul? Is there a name, an offense that you have in your mind? That’s the Holy Spirit of God. Your challenge is to go today to get this made right. In order for us to flourish, we must have a clear conscience, with an attitude of instant obedience. Don’t allow the warning light to be ignored. 

 

Community Group Discussion

1.          As you begin your discussion, have one group member open their Bible to Genesis 42 and have the rest of the group try to tell the story from memory. Discuss what you missed and what stood out.

2.          Joseph’s actions functioned as God’s instrument to activate his brothers’ consciences. Are there any appropriate parenting tips here?

3.          Discuss the sailboat illustration. How have you felt “the winds of your past” make it difficult for you to change?

4.          Discuss why you did or did not pick up a “challenge by choice” card.

5.          Have fun with this discussion: if your conscience was a person, who would it be? (Whose voice is in your head?)

6.          Discuss your “challenge by choice.” Will it be easy for you or hard? Why? Share with the group how they might pray for you to accomplish your challenge.

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul L. Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.

 

[1] http://www.keepbelieving.com/sermon/are-you-willing-to-face-your-past/

[2] All Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV unless otherwise noted.

Joseph: A Long Wait

A Long Wait Sermon Notes

A Long Wait

Genesis 39:21-40:22

Sunday, November 13th, 2016

Pastor Paul L. Davis

 

Key Goals: (Know) Glimpse the sovereignty of God. (Feel) Feel content that God is in control. (Do) Choose to challenge ourselves.

Introduction: This morning we continue our epic adventure through the last chapters of the book of Genesis, with the theme of living differently. Each week you have had the opportunity to choose to challenge yourself. This morning you will have new and unique opportunities. Joseph’s story dwarfs any other event or person in the entire book of Genesis. There are clearly things in this man’s life that God wants us to know. Over the last two weeks, we painfully watched Joseph’s roller coaster life: his father’s favorite son, betrayed by 10 half-brothers, sold into slavery to an Egyptian named Potiphar. Because the LORD was with him, he became the ruler of the entire house until he was unfairly accused, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison. That is where we find Joseph—in prison. There are many of us this morning living in painful circumstances over which we have no control, and these circumstances are not going to end soon. In the midst of these circumstances, it is easy to become bitter and angry at God. What I love most about the Bible is that it is straightforward about our pain. Suffering is going to happen and II Timothy 3:12 warns that it is going to happen to people of faith. But instead of running from it, the Bible teaches us ways to use our suffering. James 1:2-4 tells us that suffering grows our faith and produces spiritual endurance. So instead of being surprised by difficulty and suffering (I Peter 4:12), we should prepare ourselves and look for God’s good hand in it. Genesis 40 may be the greatest chapter in the Bible on how to suffer well. Let’s see if we can spot some life lessons.

We will start where we left off last week, in Genesis 39:20. And Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined, and he was there in prison. The Hebrew word translated prison means “round house.” Don’t imagine this as a big modern prison with lots of cells; it was most likely a round underground room large enough for a few men, with its entrance in the ceiling. Watch how God shows up in verse 21. But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. YHWH was with Joseph and he showed him “steadfast love.” The Hebrew word is “hesed,” that is God’s persistent and unconditional tenderness, kindness, and mercy. It is at the core of his relationship with man in that he seeks after us with love and forgiveness. It is one of the key descriptors of God in the Old Testament.

 

Turn with me quickly to Exodus 34:6-7. The context is Mount Sinai. The Children of Israel are at the base of the mountain, and this is just after the Golden Calf incident where Moses in anger threw down the two tablets of the Lord’s commands. Moses has gone back up the mountain to meet with God a second time. In the midst of all the sin and rejection of God, the Lord comes down and meets with Moses. As he passes before him, God describes himself. The Lord passed before him (Moses) and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love (hesed) and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love (hesed) for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin. These two verses are one of the clearest descriptions of God that we have in the entire Bible; the best part is that it is God describing himself. These verses answer the question, “God, how would you describe you?” God says, “The best way to describe me is: merciful, gracious, slow to anger and abounding in hesed[1]—persistent and unconditional tenderness, kindness, and mercy. The only descriptor that appears twice in these verses is hesed. God wants us to be clear that he is a persistently loving God. This aspect of God is everywhere in the Old Testament. Because of God’s steadfast love:

He is committed and faithful to us. Ho 2:19

He is drawn close to us. Jer. 31:3

He comforts us when we struggle. Ps 119:76

We can look to God for mercy. Ps 51:1

Our prayers are heard. Ps 119:149

We are preserved in times of trouble. Ps 40:11

We receive mercy. Isa 54:8

Believers can expect to know this love during affliction. Ps 42:7, 8

 

The most powerful aspect of Genesis 39:21 is that this is the first time God reveals himself as a God who is lovingly at work in our suffering—preserving us, comforting us, and faithfully hearing our prayers. God loved Joseph …and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. 22 And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it. 23 The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the Lord was with him. And whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed. Just like in Potiphar’s house, Joseph’s life was different. He was trusted and rose in authority.

 

Genesis 40:1–4

1 Some time after this, the cupbearer of the king of Egypt and his baker committed an offense (literally - sinned) against their lord the king of Egypt. 2 And Pharaoh was angry with his two officers, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, 3 and he put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard (Potiphar), in the prison where Joseph was confined. 4 The captain of the guard appointed Joseph to be with them, and he attended them. They continued for some time in custody.

 

There is something going on here that is tough to spot in English. We have three people in this story: the captain of the guard, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker. In the Hebrew, each of these men is described with the same word (captain/chief = “sar”[2]). In other words, these men were equals in Pharaoh’s court. All of them would have been important advisors with Pharaoh’s ear.

 

Genesis 40:5–8

5 And one night they both dreamed—the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were confined in the prison—each his own dream, and each dream with its own interpretation. 6 When Joseph came to them in the morning, he saw that they were troubled. 7 So he asked Pharaoh’s officers who were with him in custody in his master’s house, “Why are your faces downcast today?” 8 They said to him, “We have had dreams, and there is no one to interpret them.” And Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Please tell them to me.”

 

Notice Joseph’s question. “Do not interpretations belong to God?” This is consistent with Joseph’s witness and another opportunity to teach an Egyptian about YHWH. Think about the incredible closeness and confidence Joseph must have had in his relationship with YHWH to say to these powerful men, “Tell me your dreams and God will interpret them.”

 

Genesis 40:9–22  

9 So the chief cupbearer told his dream to Joseph and said to him, “In my dream there was a vine before me, 10 and on the vine there were three branches. As soon as it budded, its blossoms shot forth, and the clusters ripened into grapes. 11 Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes and pressed them into Pharaoh’s cup and placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand.”

 

Without hesitation, Joseph gives an interpretation.

12 Then Joseph said to him, “This is its interpretation: the three branches are three days. 13 In three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your office, and you shall place Pharaoh’s cup in his hand as formerly, when you were his cupbearer. 14 Only remember me, when it is well with you, and please do me the kindness (the Hebrew is “hesed” he is asking for faithful kindness) to mention me to Pharaoh, and so get me out of this house. 15 For I was indeed stolen out of the land of the Hebrews, and here also I have done nothing that they should put me into the pit.”

 

Joseph specifically asks the cupbearer for one thing—hesed—the kindness of sharing his story with Pharaoh. Joseph was not asking for a favor, he was calling the cupbearer to be lovingly-faithful to a person who helped him in a time of need. This is the same call that Jesus gives us: love others because we have been loved; forgive others because we have been forgiven!

 

16 When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was favorable, he said to Joseph, “I also had a dream: there were three cake baskets on my head, 17 and in the uppermost basket there were all sorts of baked food for Pharaoh, but the birds were eating it out of the basket on my head.” 18 And Joseph answered and said, “This is its interpretation: the three baskets are three days. 19 In three days Pharaoh will lift up your head—from you!—and hang you on a tree. And the birds will eat the flesh from you.”

 

This is not Joseph’s interpretation, it is God’s—and mercifully, Joseph gives it to him straight.

 

 20 On the third day, which was Pharaoh’s birthday (probably a celebration of Ra’s rebirth –which was celebrated by giving gifts and releasing prisoners)[3], he made a feast for all his servants and lifted up the head of the chief cupbearer and the head of the chief baker among his servants. 21 He restored the chief cupbearer to his position, and he placed the cup in Pharaoh’s hand. 22 But he hanged the chief baker, as Joseph had interpreted to them. 23 Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.

 

Verse 23 is one of the most painful verses in our journey so far. Yes, brothers throwing one of their own in a pit is painful. Being falsely accused and convicted is painful. But being forgotten in your time of despair? That is uniquely painful. The first four words of Genesis 41 drive home the pain, because the story will not pick up again until after two whole years.

 

Life Lesson #1: God’s hesed (persistent and unconditional tenderness, kindness, and mercy) is how and why we persevere through suffering. We see in this passage and others that it is in times of affliction that God hears our prayers, fulfills his promises, and draws close to us.[4] As we get toward the end of Joseph’s life, we will see clearly how God was committed and faithful to Joseph. His lowest points will be the vehicles God uses to move Joseph to new opportunities and seasons of ministry.

 

Life Lesson #2: Those who suffer well understand that God is with them. When we studied chapter 39 last week, no one was surprised to hear that God was “with Joseph” on his successful rise in Potiphar’s house (39:2-3). But we are told just as emphatically that God was with Joseph while he was in the pit (39:21-23). In chapter 40, no one could have had the confidence Joseph did that God was able to interpret dreams through him apart from an intimate walk with God in that dungeon. God is not far off. The God of the Bible is not aloof. He is close and he hears our prayers. Isaiah 41:17 says When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord answer them; I the God of Israel will not forsake them.

 

Life Lesson #3: “Remembering” someone who is suffering is a key role of the body of Christ. Unfortunately, I think we can all relate to the cupbearer forgetting Joseph. At some point all of us have seen suffering, thought we should do something, and then forgotten. Our God never forgets us. Isaiah 49:15 asks a powerful question: Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? (The obvious answer is no.) Even if these forget, yet I will not forget you. Because our God is a God who remembers, we must remember too. The orphan, the widow, those in prison—we have been remembered, so we must remember!

 

Challenge by Choice: As we close, we are again offering you the opportunity to be challenged. There are cards with one of six different challenges on them; these are specific applications from this morning’s message. By choosing a card, you will be like Joseph: you won’t know what you will get—it may something difficult, it may be something easy.  Like Joseph, you will not know until you get there, but each of the challenges will help you live differently.

 

 

Community Group Discussion

1.          As you begin your discussion, have one group member open their Bible to Genesis 40 and have the rest of the group try to tell the story of Genesis 40 from memory. Discuss what you missed and what stood out.

2.          Joseph’s life is one of extremes. This week we saw him hit bottom by being forgotten. How does a deep faith in God help one through the extreme ups and downs in life?

3.          This is the third time Joseph has been hurt by people he was living with and serving. Why do you think Joseph did not grow bitter or angry?

4.          Discuss why you did or did not pick up a “challenge by choice” card.

5.          Look up the following verses about God “remembering” people. Since you know God cannot forget, what is the Bible telling us that God was doing? (Genesis 8:1; 9:15, 16; 19:29; 30:22; 42:9)

6.          Discuss your “challenge by choice.” Will it be easy for you or hard? Why? Share with the group how they might pray for you to accomplish your challenge.

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul L. Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.

 

[1] R. Laird Harris, “698 חסד,” ed. R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody Press, 1999), 305.

[2] James Strong, Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon (Woodside Bible Fellowship, 1995).

[3] K. A. Mathews, Genesis 11:27–50:26, vol. 1B, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2005), 751–752.

[4] See these passages for details…Ho 2:19; Jer. 31:3; Ps 40:11; Ps 119:76; Ps 51:1; Isa 54:8; Ps 119:149; Ps 42:7,

Joseph: A Successful Man

A Successful Man Sermon Notes

A Successful Man

Genesis 39:1-20

Sunday, November 6th, 2016

Pastor Paul L. Davis

 

Key Goals: (Know) Glimpse the sovereignty of God. (Feel) Feel content that God is in control. (Do) Choose to challenge ourselves in areas of integrity. 

Introduction: This morning we continue our epic adventure through the last 25 chapters of the book of Genesis, with an open challenge to live differently. Turn to Genesis 39. As you are turning there, let me place us in time. The basic outline of the book of Genesis is easy to remember, we only have to keep in mind four major events and four key people. Genesis 1-11 depicts four great events: Creation, Fall, Flood, Tower of Babel. Genesis 12-50 describes four men of faith: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph.[1] In all of this, the story of Joseph is by far the largest section in the entire book. In fact, Joseph’s story dwarfs any other event or person in the entire book of Genesis. There are clearly things in this man’s life that God wants us to know. Last week, we witnessed a painful scene as Joseph’s half-brothers betrayed and sold him as a slave to Ishmaelite traders. We begin this morning with those traders selling Joseph to an Egyptian named Potiphar.

 

Genesis 39:1–23

Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain (or prince) of the guard, an Egyptian, had bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there. Potiphar, as the captain of the guard, would have been a part of the Egyptian social elite. He would have been educated, wealthy, and could have had as many as 1,000 slaves handling his business. Joseph, on the other hand, is still17 years old. He is uneducated and is over 300 miles away from his family and anything he knows. And, by the way, there is almost zero chance he spoke Egyptian.

 

2 The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. 3 His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands. Who was with Joseph? Your Bible says, “the LORD.” Whenever you see the word LORD, it is always translating the word YHWH, the personal name for the God of the Bible. Genesis is very clear as to who was with Joseph. YHWH was with him. The same YHWH who spoke to Abraham (Gen 12), blessed Isaac, and gave 12 sons to Jacob. Verse 3 tell us that Potiphar “saw” that YHWH was with Joseph. This is fascinating, because how would Potiphar know about YHWH? Potiphar’s name means “gift of Ra.” You would think that if Joseph was good worker, Potiphar would have thought that “Ra” was with Joseph or that Joseph was a gift from Ra, but he doesn’t. Potiphar saw Joseph and his success and attributed it to YHWH being with him. This means two things:

 

1. Joseph proclaimed YHWH with his life. Even though Joseph was a slave, he took his work seriously and did it to the best of his ability. Was he property to be bought and sold? Yes. But he worked and served to bless even those that would abuse him. He lived above his circumstances and served YHWH, and people knew it. He is living out what the apostle Paul taught in the New Testament: Ephesians 6:5–7 Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, 6 not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, 7 rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man…

 

2. Joseph proclaimed YHWH with his lips. There was only one way for Potiphar to know about YHWH—Joseph must have told him the stories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. For a man like Potiphar to make a causative statement like he did at the end of verse 3, the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands,  Potiphar must have been convinced that Joseph’s God was alive and active in his life.

 

 4 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. 5 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.  6 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.

 

The trust communicated here is astounding. For an Egyptian to entrust this much to a Hebrew slave’s charge, Joseph must have had astonishing integrity, people skills, business sense, and mastery of the Egyptian language. Notice in verse 5 that the LORD’s blessing was on Potiphar’s house because of Joseph’s sake. This is worth noting. We often talk about the “faithfulness” of the Lord. This blessing was God being faithful to a promise made to Abraham in Gen 12:3, where God says, “I will bless those who bless you.” As Joseph pursued the Lord, the Lord blessed him and those around him. When we pursue the Lord and begin letting the gospel transform us, it would be a mistake to think that the blessings that follow will only be for us. When we pursue Christ, our bosses will be blessed, our spouses, our children, our neighbors. God’s blessings are known for their ability to burst out and overflow![2]

 

Look at the end of verse 6. …Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. Wow! More blessings, right? Who doesn’t want to be handsome? The Hebrew here is very visual (photographic). It literally says Joseph was beautiful in “his shape and appearance.” These words together describe a man who was the total package. 7 And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph (literally “lifted her eyes”) and said, “Lie with me.” 8 But he refused (Hebrew—he defied authority—he was unwilling to obey) 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. 9 He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?”

 

Joseph declined her advances for three reasons: (1) This sin would violate his personal integrity. (2) This sin would directly hurt Potiphar. (3) This sin was downright against God.

 

(1) Joseph was a man “above reproach.” Joseph lived a life of personal integrity. He knew that integrity matters; it was the foundation of Potiphar’s trust in Joseph. Responsibility and opportunities flow to people of integrity. Luke 16:10 says Whoever can be trusted with little can be trusted with much.

 (2) Joseph was protective of his relationship with and witness to Potiphar. Joseph had spent incredible effort building his witness to and relationship with his master; he was not going to devastate it for a few moments of pleasure.

(3) Joseph was committed to YHWH. The end of verse 9 really speaks to Joseph’s commitment to YHWH. He was unwilling to break fellowship with God. Joseph knew that a relationship with a holy God is deeply affected by sin. YHWH was too close and too important to Joseph for him to sin like this.

 

We would do well to remember that every time we sin, we violate our personal integrity, we gamble with devastating key relationships, and we break fellowship with God. Every sin we commit affects us, the people around us, and God. Do not be fooled, Galatians 6:7 warns us, God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.

 

10 And as she spoke to Joseph day after day (Hebrew—“yom, yom”—every day over and over), he would not listen (Hebrew—obey) to her, to lie beside her or to be with her. 11 But one day, when he went into the house to do his work and none of the men of the house was there in the house, 12 she caught him by his garment (The Hebrew word “caught” in this passage has the idea of rape. See Deut. 22:28), saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house. This was a violent act. She was done asking; she “seized him,” “caught him” and ripped his garment off. This is serious.

 

We are not told whether or not Joseph was tempted to give in. She was the one who looked at him, she grabbed him. There is not one bit of evidence that Joseph was tempted and the Bible is honest enough that if he was, it would be mentioned (think David & Amnon). He was looking at instant death if he slept with Potiphar’s wife. Remember, to Potiphar’s wife, Joseph was property to be used and cast off when she was done. From what we have in this story, Joseph was probably not running from a tempting situation, he was running for his life!

 

13 And as soon as she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and had fled out of the house, 14 she called to the men of her household and said to them, “See, he has brought among us a Hebrew to laugh at us. He came in to me to lie with me, and I cried out with a loud voice. 15 And as soon as he heard that I lifted up my voice and cried out, he left his garment beside me and fled and got out of the house.” 16 Then she laid up his garment by her until his master came home, 17 and she told him the same story, saying, “The Hebrew servant, whom you have brought among us, came in to me to laugh (The Hebrew here is a sexual euphemism) at me. 18 But as soon as I lifted up my voice and cried, he left his garment beside me and fled out of the house.” 19 As soon as his master heard the words that his wife spoke to him, “This is the way your servant treated me,” his anger was kindled. 20 And Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined, and he was there in prison.

 

Potiphar throws Joseph in prison. A huge red flag should go up in your mind here. Because Joseph could have been—and if he did it, should have been—put to death. But he is not. Most Bible scholars think that, at some level, Potiphar understood what was going on. So he throws him in jail instead of killing him. At this point, if I were Joseph, I would be tempted to think that every time my life starts going well, something happens and it falls apart. God is out to get me. Joseph is probably 27 years old, and in his short life has been betrayed, sold into slavery, falsely accused and thrown into prison—every time by people who were close to him. Joseph had to be asking himself, Why me? Over the next few weeks, the “why” question will come better into focus, but for this morning let me wrap up with several random thoughts and life lessons from Joseph so far.

 

Evil people do evil things, but God is in control: Ever since sin entered this world, evil people have been doing evil things. If this story teaches the believer anything, it is that God is so good and his sovereignty so complete that even the evil in this world is worked into God’s good plans. Selling Joseph as a slave was evil, but think about this: Joseph spent the next ten years of his life learning the integrity, people skills, business sense and mastery of the Egyptian language that he would later use to rule Egypt. God’s ways are far more powerful than the evil schemes of 10 brothers. As we get further and further into Joseph’s life, we will see this more clearly.

 

Run from sin regardless of the consequences: Here is a theological truth we must get our head around: sometimes in this world, when we obey God and do right, we experience extreme hardship. The Scripture teaches us it happened to Jesus and it will happen to us. Joseph ran from sin, he did the absolute right thing, and he paid for it by being sent to jail. It was “not fair,” but because his personal integrity, witness to Potiphar and his relationship with God were intact, God will bless him in very unique ways despite his circumstances.

 

When we live for the Lord, people around us are blessed: This will be a recurring theme in Joseph’s life. The blessings of God overflowed from Joseph’s life and they spilled all over Potiphar. When you and I put God first, when we follow him regardless of the consequences, people around us will be blessed. It is in the very nature of God’s blessings to burst out, overflow, and spill onto others!

 

Challenge by Choice: As we close, we are offering you the opportunity to be challenged. There are cards with one of six different challenges on them; these are specific applications from this morning’s message. By choosing a card, you will be like Joseph: you won’t know what you will get—it may something difficult, it may be something easy.  Like Joseph, you will not know until you get there, but each of the challenges will help you live differently.

 

 

Community Group Discussion

1.          As you begin your discussion, have one group member open their Bible to Genesis 39 and have the rest of the group try to tell the story of Genesis 39 from memory. Discuss what you missed and what stood out.

2.          Joseph’s life is one of extremes. This week we saw him go from being the favored servant to a prisoner. How does a deep faith in God help one through the extreme ups and downs in life?

3.          This is the second huge event in Joseph’s life that “was not fair.” How would you counsel Joseph through this if he were a friend of yours?

4.          Discuss why you did or did not pick up a “challenge by choice” card.

5.          How does 2 Timothy 2:22 tie into this Bible story?

6.          Discuss your “challenge by choice.” Will it be easy for you or hard? Why? Share with the group how they might pray for you to accomplish your challenge.

 

© Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to use and reproduce this material in any format for spiritual, non-commercial purposes. We only ask that you do not alter the content in any way and do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction. Please include the following statement on any distributed material: by Paul L. Davis. © Calvary Baptist Church of Holland.

 

[1] This very basic outline largely comes from the “Walk Thru The Bible” Old Testament material.

[2] C.f. Exodus 23:25; Ps 1:1; 31:19;Prov 3:10, 16:20; Deut. 28:1

God's Powerful Prophets: Jeremiah

Jeremiah Sermon Notes

Jeremiah

Calvary Baptist Church of Holland

Sunday August 21, 2016

Pastor Paul L. Davis

 

Key Goals: (Know) Understand faithfulness and perseverance. (Feel) Feel empowered to persevere.  (Do) Follow hard after the Lord.

Introduction: God’s Powerful Prophets. We are in the midst of exploring four key men in God’s plan for redeeming mankind; they were all prophets. Our first two prophets were Elijah and Elisha, and today we are going to meet Jeremiah. A prophet’s job was to tell God’s people the truth about God and their sin. They were to clearly reveal sins that needed to be repented of and truths that needed to be remembered. Sometimes, a prophetic word is exactly what we need to hear. People can become forgetful, rebellious, complacent, preoccupied, stubborn, busy and just plain disobedient. A prophet’s job was to wake people up and turn their hearts away from sin and towards God. The Hebrew word for prophet is “naw-bi.” The root of that word means “to be open or hollow” and described the hollow part of a flute[1]. The idea is that a prophet’s mouth was to be hollow so that it would speak God’s words into the world.

The Story of Jeremiah

The man wakes up suddenly as his cheek touches the cold mud. Goosebumps make his whiskers stand on end. It’s dark, and just for a moment the man wonders where he is. He shivers as the cold mud has sapped the warmth from his body. As he looks up, he sees the mouth of the well some 30 feet above him. The brightness of the daylight causes his eyes to hurt. “What day is it?” he wonders. “How long have I been down here?” As he asks himself these questions, his weight shifts in the mud. His legs have fallen asleep again and the painful tingling forces him to fight the mud that holds him captive. He thought when they were lowering him down that he would land in water but the well was almost dry and there was only a thick layer of mud to break his fall. Alone at the bottom of a well, imprisoned and shivering in the mud—how did a powerful prophet of God end up here?

Jeremiah was born to be a prophet. The morning he first heard the Lord’s voice, God said to him, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5)[2] From his youngest days Jeremiah struggled with his assignment. He had told the Lord that he was not a strong speaker. (Jer. 1:6) But God had said, “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.” (Jer. 1:9) And even when Jeremiah thought in his heart that he was not going to tell the people what God had revealed to him, God’s words became like a fire in his bones, burning so strongly he didn’t have the strength to hold them in (Jer. 20:9). So Jeremiah preached, and spoke the truth to kings and princes and anyone who might listen.

When he began, he was only 17 years old. The cold mud is much harder on his now 50-year-old body. For 40 years Jeremiah only spoke truth. Five kings had come and gone and through them all he had faithfully brought the messages God had given him.

At first God told him to preach repentance. “Root out, pull down, destroy and throw down, Then build and plant,” God had said (Jer. 1:10). His nation had forgotten their God, even though godly King Josiah wanted the people to turn back to the Lord. People are not easy to turn. They had actually lost the Bible and when King Josiah found it, Jeremiah read it to the people over and over, pleading with them to repent of their sin and turn to God. God let Jeremiah see the grave consequences on the horizon if the people ignored him. But no one listened. Not one. So God told Jeremiah to warn the people of coming destruction, that invaders were coming from the north (Jer. 1:14-15; 4:6), that they would bring famine, disease and war.

God’s people had broken covenant with God (Jer. 11:10). They had forsaken God by worshipping the false gods called Baals (Jer. 2:8; 11:13) and they even built altars to Baal so they could burn their children as offerings (Jer. 19:4-5). So Jeremiah warned the people and exposed their sins; he pointed out their idolatry (Jer. 44:1-10), their adultery (Jer. 5:7-9), how they oppressed the refugees, orphans and widows (Jer. 7:5-6). He begged them to turn from their lies and how they spoke evil of each other (Jer. 9:4-6). Jeremiah told them that God had withdrawn his blessings (Jer. 16:5-10), that famine and starvation were on their way (Jer.15:1-4), that the Babylonians would plunder them and take them captive to a far away land (Jer. 14:12; 25:8-9).

That is when the beatings began (Jer. 20:1-10). Pashhur the priest (chief officer of the house of the Lord) ordered the first one. Jeremiah flinched as he remembered the rod striking him over and over and over. All Jeremiah had done was warn the people of the coming destruction (Jer. 19:15) but they called him a traitor and a false prophet. When the Babylonians finally arrived at the gates of the city and the people began starving as the siege went longer and longer, did the people listen then? Not one.

A cloud passes across the tiny bit of sky Jeremiah can see from the bottom of the well. The little water that remains has a rancid musty smell. Jeremiah begins to think of people who might come to his rescue. He has no wife or children. God specifically forbid him from marrying anyone (Jer. 16:1-2). God had said the diseases and the destruction would be too horrible for family. Who would come to rescue a prophet who only gives bad news? 

It was the leaders of the city and the king himself that had thrown Jeremiah in the well. “How can it be treason,” Jeremiah thought, “when all I am doing is telling the people how to survive the coming massacre?” “Leave the city,” he told anyone who would listen. “Surrender to the Babylonians and God will protect you and your family.” (Jer. 38:2-3). But when the men came for him they all shouted, “Treason!” and tied him up with ropes. Before he knew it, Jeremiah was at the bottom of a well—alone, cold, and desperately hungry (Jer. 38:9).

For 40 years Jeremiah had preached. He had no wife, no children, no retirement account, no success to show for his sacrifices. Just the constant drip coming from the stone walls of the well. As Jeremiah began drifting off to sleep, he remembered, “It’s not been all gloom and doom. I’ve always proclaimed the good things that are coming too.” From memory Jeremiah began quoting one of his favorite messages:  

This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor… saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”        Jeremiah 31:33–34

As his words echoed in the well, Jeremiah drifted into a deep sleep, dreaming once again of the righteous and soon coming King who would set all the world right (Jer.23:5; 33:15).

Jeremiah would eventually be rescued from the well.

What do we learn from the life of Jeremiah?

1. Every believer, even “Powerful Prophets of God,” experiences rejection, failure, and discouragement in their walk with the Lord. This is a normal part of growing spiritually. We live in a fallen, sin-filled world and until Christ returns every believer will face hardship. This is why discipling one another is so important; this is why we train ourselves in godliness, so that we are prepared when we find ourselves at the bottom of a well. When the apostle Paul was discipling young Timothy he exhorted him, “You must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” 2 Timothy 2:3–4 (NKJV) The Greek word for “hardship” literally means “evil, suffering and even condemnation.” The idea is that there comes a time in a battle where a soldier knows that to be faithful in their duties means they might die. To endure in that moment is faithfulness. 

2. As a church, we measure success by faithfulness to God and his word. How should we be measuring the successfulness of Calvary or the Church @ Hamilton? Number of baptisms? If we like the sermon or worship package? If the church serves coffee or not? You can take a look at all of those things, but let us not kid ourselves, God measures success in terms of obedience and faithfulness—obedience to the mission and faithfulness to endure hardship.

3. Families and spouses are important, but the number one relationship in your life must be God. Jeremiah never married, he never had children and he was 100% in the will of God. If you are single, do not compromise your relationship with God in order to be married. Follow God with all of your heart, and if someone comes along and can keep up with you? Marry them. I hear someone thinking, “But what about love? Isn’t love what matters most?” Why, yes it is. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Deuteronomy 6:5 Finding a good wife is important and having a strong family is important. But children grow up and leave, and marriage is only until death. Your relationship with God is eternal. Put him first.

[1] Francis Brown, Samuel Rolles Driver, and Charles Augustus Briggs, Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977), 612.

[2] All Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV unless otherwise noted.

God's Powerful Prophets: Elisha

Elisha Sermon Notes

Elisha

Sunday August 14th, 2016

Pastor Paul L. Davis

2 Kings 5:1-27

Key Goals: (Know) Understand the danger of pride and greed. (Feel) Love, humility and grace.  (Do) Repent of the pride and greed in our lives.

Introduction: We are in the midst of exploring four key men in God’s plan for redeeming mankind; they were all prophets. Our first two prophets are Elijah and Elisha, and we looked at Elijah last week. Our second two will be Jeremiah and Ezekiel. God used each of these men in powerful and unique ways.

What is a prophet? He was a man chosen by God to bring repentance and change. He did that by:

1.          Revealing to the world who God was and what he was like. (Deut. 5:4-10)

2.          Calling God’s people to love and obey him. (2 Chr. 24:19)

3.          Warning of divine judgment upon sin both on a personal and national level. (Jer. 36:30-31)

4.          Foretelling certain future events, especially as related to the coming of the Messiah. (Jer. 30:1-3, Is. 9:6)

A prophet’s job was to tell God’s people the truth about God and their sin, to clearly reveal the sins needing to be repented of and the truths that needed to be remembered. Sometimes, a prophetic word is exactly what we need to hear. People can become forgetful, rebellious, complacent, preoccupied, stubborn, busy and just plain disobedient. A prophet’s job was to wake people up and turn their hearts away from sin towards God. The Hebrew word for prophet is “naw-bi.” The root of that word means “to be open or hollow” and was used to describe the hollow part of a flute[1]. The idea is that a prophet’s mouth was to be hollow so that it would speak God’s words into the world.

Background Review: This morning we will be looking at Elisha (approx. 892–832 BCE). Turn in your Bible to 2 Kings 5:1-27. While you are turning, let’s set the table for where we are in time. King David followed Yahweh and handed the kingdom to Solomon. Solomon’s son Rehoboam oppressed the people and the kingdom split into two: Judah and Benjamin to the south and the other 10 tribes to the north. Elijah showed up on the scene 58 years later. Seven kings had reigned in Israel and all of them were evil, worshipping idols. As we saw last week, God used Elijah to change that. This week we are going to look at Elijah’s successor Elisha.

Elisha shows up not long after our story last week. Elijah is hiding in a cave from the wrath of Queen Jezebel after defeating all of her Baal false-prophets. He expresses his loneliness as a servant of the Lord, and God responds by telling him to get up, anoint several kings, and call Elisha as his successor. Elisha, completely unaware of this plan, was plowing his field one day when Elijah passed by and threw his cloak on his shoulders (1 Kgs 19:19).[2] From that day on, Elisha followed Elijah until the Lord took him. The Bible tells us that Elisha had a “double portion” of the Spirit of God that Elijah had on him. Read 1-2 Kings sometime and see some of the great things that he did. We are going to see how God’s Powerful Prophet’s worked this morning by taking a close look at Elisha’s interaction with an army commander named Naaman.

2 Kings 5:1–27 (NLT)

The king of Aram (modern day Syria) had great admiration for Naaman, the commander of his army, because through him the Lord had given Aram great victories. But though Naaman was a mighty warrior, he suffered from leprosy.

The biblical word “leprosy” was used to describe many incurable, contagious skin diseases. The book of Leviticus actually gives detailed instructions on how Israel was to deal with these diseases, some of which were highly contagious. Before antibiotics and anti-fungal medicines, it was important to quarantine people with skin infections. Think about some of the diseases that show skin symptoms. Of course there is leprosy, but also small pox, measles, plague, herpes, gangrene. All of these are dangerous and in biblical times often meant a lonely, slow, and painful death. Naaman had one of these diseases.

2 At this time Aramean raiders had invaded the land of Israel, and among their captives was a young girl who had been given to Naaman’s wife as a maid. (This young girl, we will find out later, was an Israelite.) 3 One day the girl said to her mistress, “I wish my master would go to see the prophet in Samaria. He would heal him of his leprosy.”  

Notice the graciousness of this little girl. She was a “captive.” You know what that is a nice way of saying? She was ripped away from her family and she was now a slave. Yet she was still gracious to her captor.

4 So Naaman told the king what the young girl from Israel had said. 5 “Go and visit the prophet,” the king of Aram told him. “I will send a letter of introduction for you to take to the king of Israel.” So Naaman started out, carrying as gifts 750 pounds of silver ($245,000), 150 pounds of gold ($3,250,000), and ten sets of clothing.

Naaman was not holding back; this was an extraordinary amount of money. If anyone could buy their health, it was Naaman. What he did not know was that prophets did not work for money. 

 6 The letter to the king of Israel said: “With this letter I present my servant Naaman. I want you to heal him of his leprosy.” 7 When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes in dismay and said, “This man sends me a leper to heal! Am I God, that I can give life and take it away? I can see that he’s just trying to pick a fight with me.”

This was a legitimate thought—Israel and Aram had fought many battles against each other. 

 8 But when Elisha, the man of God, heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes in dismay, he sent this message to him: “Why are you so upset? Send Naaman to me, and he will learn that there is a true prophet here in Israel.”

What the king saw as a problem, Elisha saw as an opportunity to witness to an important leader of another nation.

 9 So Naaman went with his horses and chariots and waited at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 But Elisha sent a messenger out to him with this message: “Go and wash yourself seven times in the Jordan River. Then your skin will be restored, and you will be healed of your leprosy.”

So Naaman is probably the wealthiest man anyone in Israel had ever seen and he is standing with millions of dollars worth of gifts at Elisha’s door, and Elisha won’t even talk with him. This would be rude today, but in the Eastern world if someone showed up to your door, you would feed and welcome them. Elisha sends a messenger.

Naaman’s Pride

11 But Naaman became angry and went away. “I thought he would certainly come out to meet me!” he said. “I expected him to wave his hand over the leprosy and call on the name of the Lord (YHWH) his God and heal me! 12 Aren’t the rivers of Damascus, the Abana and the Pharpar, better than any of the rivers of Israel? Why shouldn’t I wash in them and be healed?” So Naaman turned and went away in a rage.  

Elisha was not being rude; he was being like Jesus and getting straight to Naaman’s spiritual issue: pride. Naaman thought his power, wealth, and position could buy him his health from a prophet of God. But God and his prophet were not as concerned about Naaman’s health as they were his heart. He needed humility as much as he needed healing.

13 …His officers tried to reason with him and said, “Sir, if the prophet had told you to do something very difficult, wouldn’t you have done it? So you should certainly obey him when he says simply, ‘Go and wash and be cured!’ ”

What happens next is one of the greatest Gentile conversions in the entire Bible![3]

14 So Naaman went down to the Jordan River and dipped himself seven times, as the man of God had instructed him. And his skin became as healthy as the skin of a young child, and he was healed! 15 Then Naaman and his entire party went back to find the man of God. They stood before him, and Naaman said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel. So please accept a gift from your servant.” 16 But Elisha replied, “As surely as the Lord (YHWH) lives, whom I serve, I will not accept any gifts.” And though Naaman urged him to take the gift, Elisha refused.

No longer proud, Naaman proclaims his faith in Yahweh and wants to show his appreciation through a gift. Elisha refuses the gift, not because it was inappropriate, but because of Naaman’s pride. Elisha wants Naaman to understand the grace of God. Naaman asked and obeyed in faith and by faith he was healed and accepted by God—Elisha did not want Naaman to miss that. We too are accepted by God by faith. We don’t have to earn it, pay for it or even work hard for it. When we lose our pride and turn and seek the Lord by faith, we will be healed and accepted just like Naaman. But unfortunately that is not the end of the story.

Gehazi’s Greed

So Naaman started home again. 20 But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, the man of God, said to himself, “My master should not have let this Aramean get away without accepting any of his gifts. As surely as the Lord lives, I will chase after him and get something from him.”

We get a glimpse into Gehazi’s thoughts, and what we hear is a mind filled with greed. 

21 So Gehazi set off after Naaman. When Naaman saw Gehazi running after him, he climbed down from his chariot and went to meet him. “Is everything all right?” Naaman asked. 22 “Yes,” Gehazi said, “but my master has sent me to tell you that two young prophets from the hill country of Ephraim have just arrived. He would like 75 pounds of silver and two sets of clothing to give to them.”  

Gehazi is asking for about $25,000 worth of goods, a small amount compared to what Naaman was willing to give. But his greed is more than just covetousness, it has turned to lying and manipulation. Gehazi boldly creates a story to manipulate Naaman in his generosity. Naaman’s newly redeemed heart is glad to pay it.

23 “By all means, take twice as much silver,” Naaman insisted. He gave him two sets of clothing, tied up the money in two bags, and sent two of his servants to carry the gifts for Gehazi. 24 But when they arrived at the citadel, Gehazi took the gifts from the servants and sent the men back. Then he went and hid the gifts inside the house.

Gehazi ends up with over $50,000 worth of goods and 150 pounds of silver that he has to hide. This had to have been a lot of work.

25 When he went in to his master, Elisha asked him, “Where have you been, Gehazi?” “I haven’t been anywhere,” he replied. (should be “he lied.”) 26 But Elisha asked him, “Don’t you realize that I was there in spirit when Naaman stepped down from his chariot to meet you? Is this the time to receive money and clothing, olive groves and vineyards, sheep and cattle, and male and female servants? 27 Because you have done this, you and your descendants will suffer from Naaman’s leprosy forever.” When Gehazi left the room, he was covered with leprosy; his skin was white as snow.

Namaan gave up his pride, by faith following YHWH, and he leaves blessed. Gehazi, on the other hand, gave up YHWH and followed his greed. So what do we take from this?

1.          The grace of God cannot be bought with gold, power or position. We must come to God by faith and faith alone.

2.          Power or position or silver and gold can actually be a hindrance to following God.

3.          Two of the easiest ways for people to miss God’s blessing are:

(a) Pride—Naaman almost rejected God because of his pride

(b) Covetousness—Gehazi’s covetous heart wanted gold more than he wanted God. We have to ask ourselves: Are we unwilling to do easy things that God is asking us to do? Well, that’s pride. Are we chasing after money and stuff—is our life a marathon of getting more? That’s covetousness.

 

[1] Francis Brown, Samuel Rolles Driver, and Charles Augustus Briggs, Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977), 612.

[2] Amy Balogh, “Elisha the Prophet,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).

[3] Some others would be Rahabin Josh 2:9–13, Ruth in Ruth 1:16–18, The sailors in Jonah 1:16; 3:6–10

Fight! - How Sin Works

Fight! - How Sin Works Sermon Notes

Through this series “Fight!” we are going to create a tactical spiritual warfare battle plan to win the battle for our souls. Make no mistake, there is a spiritual battle going on and you are in it. The wins and losses of these spiritual battles all have consequences, some of which are awful, unchangeable and eternal. At the core, our battle is against one foe, one enemy: sin. Sin is the enemy that lurks in the heart of every person. It is our personal enemy and it is not a tame one. For the next three weeks we are going to learn how to fight this enemy. This first message is going to look at the destructiveness of sin and how sin works, then we will end with the first weapon of fighting sin. Thank you for joining us in this series. We pray and believe that this message will help you to fight and win the battle against sin.