2018年5月21日星期一

Worship Comes Before Transformation



Mark 9:2-29
Jesus’ Mountaintop
Transfiguration
Despite his busy schedule in ministry, Jesus would regularly retreat, quieten down, and pray earnestly. This time, He brought with him three disciples—Peter, James and John, to a high mountain to pray. The high mountains are the most ideal places to pray and experience God.
At the mountaintop, Jesus was transfigured before the disciples. Mark tells us, “Jesus’ clothes became radiant, intensely white, and whiter than anyone on earth could bleach them.” This was the eternal God the Son in His glory!
In the Old Testament, God at Mount Sinai appeared in his glory to Moses. Moses could not see God directly. God hid him in the cave and he only saw the back of God. But even this had made the face of Moses radiant. Apparently there is an unsurpassable gap between God and the sinful people. No sinful people can come to God’s presence to witness his glory without being stricken to death.
Following the incident, through Moses, God commanded the Israelites to build a tent or tabernacle. God’s presence would dwell in the tabernacle and through sacrifices offered in the tabernacle; God’s people could come to the presence of God alive.
Now Jesus, on the other mountain, transfigured and appeared in his own glory. This transfiguration affirmed His identity as the eternal God the Son. This was also an anticipation of Jesus’ glorification after His death, resurrection and ascension.
Peter, James and John beheld Jesus’ glory but remained alive, though they were greatly terrified as they were overshadowed by cloud, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son, listen to him.”
And there too appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. Moses represented the Law while Elijah represented the Prophets. The appearance of these two great representatives of Israel’s tradition next to Jesus showed that his identity is unparalleled.
In Luke’s record, we are told that Elijah and Moses discussed with Jesus concerning His departure (or, exodus), which He was about to accomplish in Jerusalem. The two luminaries were cheering Jesus on, affirming and encouraging Him to accomplish his God-given mission. Their discussion involved the prophecies of the Law and the Prophets concerning the Messiah, Jesus who would accomplish salvation for all nations through His suffering and death.
And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.”
Peter intended to make such glorious, majestic and blessed moments of God’s presence longer and safer through their divine presence dwelling in the tent or tabernacle. But suddenly, Moses and Elijah disappeared. They saw Jesus only. The tent-building project did not materialise.
Theologically Moses and Elijah had to go. They were not supposed to linger in the tents along side with Jesus because their era had passed and now Jesus came and inaugurated a new era of salvation. And Jesus is the only way by which people can go to the Father. He himself is the tabernacle, the Temple and the sacrifice too. Through Jesus, we are able to connect with God and remain alive.
Actually Jesus and the disciples’ mountaintop experience is a “worship” experience; where human have a foretaste of God’s eternal, glorious presence—the Transfiguration, the overshadowing cloud and the affirming voice of God.
Let Us Worship the Lord Unceasingly
Humans always live with sense of insecurity, self-alienation and alienation from other fellow humans, and also with feeling of loneliness and dissatisfaction deep down in soul. People are haunted with all kinds of longing and want to be fulfilled. And Satan deceives us, directing us to things outside God, outside Jesus for satisfying our longings and wants. We think that only by obtaining wealth and health, love and achievements and etc, we will be satisfied.
However, the truth is only by worshipping God, the Holy One will our innermost emptiness be satisfied. Only God’s acceptance and forgiveness of sin will deliver us from guilt, shame and brokenness.
In worship, where we come to dwell in God’s presence, we will have a foretaste of all that our inner being long for, i.e. seeing God’s face, feeling the weight of his glory upon us, hearing God’s voice and entering into his embrace. In worship, we have glimpses of God’s eternal glory, and a foretaste of all his blessings and inheritance which he has placed in store for us in eternity. In worship, we not only believe that God is good and forgiving, but really experience his goodness and acceptance personally.
Today regardless of what circumstances we are in, we ought to constantly encounter God through worship. In this encounter, the Spirit will empower and equip us to face the future challenges in life. We ought to desire this kind of experience. It is like “tonic” to revive and renew us. We gain strength and solidify our faith through these experiences.
Now the question is, “who can experience an authentic worship?”; “What kind of attitude a true worshipper must have in order to enter into worship?”
Feeling Unworthy, Inadequate and Helpless
After the transfiguration, Jesus and His disciples went down from the mountain to meet other fellow disciples. And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. And Jesus asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?”
And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.”
And Jesus answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.”
And they brought the boy to Jesus. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth, and Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?”
And he said, “From childhood, and it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”
And Jesus said to him, “If you can! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; but help my unbelief!”
And Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, never enter him again.”
And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he aroused.
And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”
Jesus’ prayerful mountaintop experience had equipped Him to accomplish what was recorded in the Books of the Law and the Prophets. He went down to the crowded valley and plains, to fight against the forces of evil; set free those who were oppressed and enchained. He served ceaselessly throughout His entire journey to Jerusalem until He arrived at another mountain, Golgotha, to suffer humiliation and to be crucified on the cross. There he sacrificed His own life for the salvation of the world.
In contrast, the disciples tried to cast out demons but failed because they did not pray enough. They were complacent and over confident of themselves. They did not prepare themselves enough to wage war against evil and suffering.
There was only one person who knew his own inadequacy and helpless state that is the father of the child. He pleaded with Jesus to help his unbelief. And the result is Jesus healed his son.
We don’t need to be fully righteous to come to God. We only need to be remorseful and confess our sin, and acknowledge that we are indeed weak and helpless, and pleading with Jesus to help our unbelief. We can solely rely on this attitude to come to dwell in God’s presence in worship. Then we will be able to have a glimpse and foretaste of God’s eternal glory and his bountiful blessing.
Conclusion
Today we must not be contented with the busy service or the boring and monotonous life of the “plains”. We need to “go up the mountains” to pray and worship God. Today you may only know in your mind that God loves you, but you ought to feel and experience God’s love in worship.
In worship, the Holy Spirit will empower you to experience the sweetness of God’s presence. You will hear God’s voice whispering to you. You will feel that his presence surrounds you with his embrace. Your soul will also be radiant for he has shone on you.
The worship experience will prepare and equip you to take on the challenges of life; to “go down to the valley and plains” to serve the needs of the crowd and take on all other challenges that come our way. We will bring changes to our lives and to the world at large.
Let’s now humble ourselves before God, confess that we are helpless and we need God and not God needs us. Let’s be sure that only by dwelling in the presence of God can all our longings be satisfied. We will experience healing for our brokenness and deliverance from sin. 
Now we may stand alone and face various constraints, yet we can still worship God, for he will meet us in worship and grant us the foretaste of his glory and bountiful grace and blessing, and we will then be renewed, able to rise up again to new heights and empowered to move on in the power of Spirit.

2018年5月20日星期日

From Sorrow to Singing


Psalm 13   
How Long O Lord?
Introduction
Regardless of whether one is Christian or not, difficulties, death, and grief come upon us all. The reason is that we are all born into a world that is marred by sin. As such, none of us is unaffected by it. How shall we face difficulties, death, and grief? This question reminds me of Psalm 13.
Psalm 13 is the shortest among the lament psalms. It is a psalm that pleads for salvation. Generally, psalms of lament have the following structural features: Introductory address, complaint, request, expression of trust, and expression/declaration of praise. Typically, there are three parties in these psalms: you, me, and him/they. “You” refers to God, “me” refers to the psalmist, and “him/they” refers to the enemy.
Interpretation
Although Psalm 13 has only six verses, it is a very compact and complete psalm. This psalm encapsulates very well the literary style and the theology of individual psalms of lament.
Verses 1-2
Introductory address and complaint

How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

In verses 1-2, the psalmist sighs to God concerning the grief that he is experiencing. In these two verses, the psalmist asks the Lord four times, saying, “How long?” The psalmist is not asking this question in hope of receiving a rational answer. Rather, he is opening up to God about the sorrow that is in his heart.
The psalmist asks God, “How long, O LORD, will you forget me?” Does the Lord intend to leave him helpless and without comfort forever?
“Forget” denotes that God is not deliberately abandoning him. But the psalmist also alleges that God is hiding his face from him. “Hiding face” denotes that God is deliberately allowing him to sink in his present predicament. If it is true that God is hiding his face from the psalmist, then this is a very frightening thing for it means that God is withdrawing his grace and no longer thinks of the psalmist as part of his people!
O how miserable it is for the person who is helplessly in despair yet cannot see God’s grace and compassion!
The inner condition of the psalmist is reflected in his next line, “How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day?”
This shows that the psalmist has been introspectively looking into himself – did he commit a sin? Has he offended God? The psalmist is reaching out to God from the depth of his heart of despair and pain.
In the end, the psalmist cannot hold it in anymore and complained indignantly to God, “How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?”
The “enemy” can be an illness, a disaster, a personal grudge, religious or political persecution, et cetera. Perhaps it is about someone else, Satan, or even death. The psalmist may be suffering internally or externally.
These enemies are gloating at him and so he asked the fourth time, “How long?” This shows that the psalmist has run out of patience. It appears that the psalmist knows that God is allowing him to suffer and so he asks God how long more is he going to wait.
Often, when we face difficulties, death, or grief, we suppress our true feelings to others and even to God. We may think that we should not express the pain and dissatisfaction within our hearts to God because that may seem to show that we lack faith in him. Such thoughts are incorrect.
Through this lament psalm, the psalmist expresses the content of his heart and the extent of his suffering to God. The psalms of lament help us to learn to pour out our true feelings at the deepest levels of our hearts completely and unreservedly to God.
We observe that when children fall or experience some unfair treatment, they will cry and seek out their parents for comforting. As God’s children, we can come before God and complain about the calamities that befall us and tell God how we feel about them. God is by our side to comfort us and to show us a way out.
Verses 3-4
Petition

Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.

As we look closely at verses 3-4, we see that after the psalmist has expressed his heart feelings, he begins to ask God to hear him out and to save him. He asks God to “consider” him and to “answer” him, which is to request that God respond to him.
He also asks God to “light up his eyes.” When a patient knows that death is just around the corner, his eyes glazes over, and he slowly descends into the sleep of death. Now he pleads with God to light up his eyes, meaning, to grant him a new lease of life.
The phrase “lest I sleep the sleep of death” does not only refer to a recovery of his bodily health but also, more importantly, denotes that his close relationship with God will be restored.
The psalmist is also praying that God will promptly intervene and rescue him, lest his enemy gloat over his predicament and claim victory over him and over God.
When we are faced with so many difficulties, the threat of death, and overwhelming grief, it is understandable to be frightened, frustrated, and troubled. In those times we may easily be hindered by the immediate events and the turbulent emotions of the heart and, thereby, unable to see God and his work in the midst of it. Let us plead with God to light up our eyes to notice his presence, to see his work, and to know his will.
After we have poured out the contents of our heart to God, we must continue to pray and seek for God’s personal comfort and encouragement. If we stop praying after complaining to him, this means that we refuse to wait silently before him. This is an expression of unbelief. This amounts to rejecting God’s response to us. Thus we will become spiritually numb and unable to sense God’s presence.
Finally, when we pray in such manner, what spiritual light and growth can we experience?
Verse 5
Expression of Trust

But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.

Beginning from verse 5, we find that the psalmist’s thoughts have changed. The psalmist turns from thinking that God was indifferent to his situation to trusting God’s steadfast love. The psalmist’s faith suddenly rises. Why is it that the psalmist can depend on the love of God?
The psalmist knows that the covenant love of God for his people is unchanging. Therefore, he is convinced that God’s salvation will come through. This is the power of the faith of the covenant people of God from generation to generation.
Verse 6
Expression of Praise/Declaration of Faith

I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.

As the psalmist again considered and affirmed God’s presence and salvation, his heart is filled with joy and he begins to sing to the Lord. The psalmist realizes that God has dealt bountifully with him like the pouring of the oil of joy over a sorrowful heart. This enables him to sing praises to God from the depth of his heart.
Although the outward circumstances may not have changed, but the inward attitude of the psalmist has been transformed. The psalmist changes from being a doubter to being a worshiper with hope and joy.
Application
Just when it seems to be completely hopeless, the faith of the psalmist suddenly rises. This is the power of the faith of the covenant people of God and the believers throughout the generations. God expresses his faithfulness and steadfast love to humanity through the covenant.
In the Old Testament, one of the ways through which God’s love can be seen is through His acts of salvation. The same was true with Job. When he had lost all hope, though he could not comprehend God’s intention and good purposes, but because of the faith that was rising within him, he saw God and the unknown future and, thereby, declared, “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you” (Job 42:5).
As the author of the book of Hebrews says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb 11:1).
Faith empowers people to have the assurance of certainty concerning the future. Faith enables us to see God’s future saving grace and, thereby, produces a declaration of praise from within us. Faith makes it possible for us to extol God, saying, “I will sing to the LORD, because He has dealt bountifully with me.”
As we reflect on all the years that we have been through, if not for the love and grace of God, what kind of people would we be today? O let us give thanks to God for His grace toward us!
Everyone living on the earth will experience difficulties, death, and pain. The songs of lament of the world portray loneliness and hopelessness as the artist sings in tears as he or she climbs up flights of stairs, floor by floor, overcome with sadness, and perchance may even jump off the building to end it all.
But for believers, we can express our psalms of lament to God and produce hope in the midst of calamities and struggles. We see that God loves us with an unchanging and unrelenting love. So we trust in God and we praise him. God will give us the power to overcome the challenges throughout our lives. For example, the life of Nick Vujicic is a good testimony for us all.
Even in the face of the many challenges in life and even in the face of physical death, we need not be afraid for we will not be separated from the love of God. Just as Romans 8:35-37 says, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
By being connected with Christ, we have become children of God. God will certainly care for his children and not abandon us for God is always faithful and loving. Consider this: the fact that we have lived all these years and become the people that we are today – is this not because of God’s love and grace?
Today, whenever we find ourselves in a bind, we ought to talk to him and call upon him to help us. By faith, we will see his presence and the coming of his salvation. God wants to help us turn our mourning into joy. We have hope in sorrow. Let us rise up, declare, and praise God!
Altar Call
Jesus is the Son of God who became flesh and entered into our trouble-filled world. He made known to the world that God is the Savior who is filled with unrelenting love in the most extreme way. Jesus sacrificed his own life on the cross in order to take our punishment upon himself so that our sins may be forgiven. He overcame death by his resurrection so that all believes in him may become children of God and have abundant life.
For those among us, dear friends, who have not believed in the Lord Jesus, are you willing to open up your heart and welcome this Jesus, who is full of steadfast love, to be your Savior?
Holy Spirit, come and touch our hearts! Open up the eyes of our heart to see the salvation of Jesus and to accept Jesus as the Lord of our lives.

Vineyard of Radical Grace


Matthew 20:1-16
Workers in the Vineyard
The preceding texts, 19:16-22 tells an account of Jesus encountering a rich young man. The young man asked Jesus what good deed ought he to do in order to receive eternal life. Jesus said to him: "Go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, and come, follow me.”
Seeing this, Peter responded to Jesus, “See, we have left everything and followed you, what we will get?”
Jesus then told the disciples of this parable, "workers in the vineyard", as an answer to Peter.
During Jesus’ ministry, many workers faced the problem of unemployment. Their lives had no basic security, and there were no labour union and social security to protect workers' welfare. During harvest time, the vineyard owners would use temporary workers to work the harvesting.
The "harvest time" here signifies the expansion of God’s kingdom in end-times when many workers are needed and lost souls are to be saved into the Kingdom. God the Father goes out (through the Son of God incarnated) to look for people to work in the vineyard, and gives them enough grace to operate.
During the time of Jesus, the workers normally worked from 6am and stopped at 6pm. They had to work twelve hours a day. The vineyard owner himself went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. It is likely 5am in the morning. He promised to give a denarius to the workers. One denarius is equivalent to a day’s wage. These workers were feeling very fortunate to have found employment and were very happy to start work from early morning at 6am.
And then, this vineyard owner went out about 9am and he saw other workers standing idle in the marketplace. He was very compassionate for he could not bear to see people hanging outside wanting to be employed but found no work. He hired this second batch of workers and promised to pay them “what is right”.
The vineyard owner continued to go out to hire subsequent batches of workers when he saw them standing looking for job. He actually went out a total of five times in a day (early morning, 9am, 12pm, 3pm, 5pm) to hired workers to work in his field (vv.1-6).
For the subsequent batches of workers, the vineyard owner promised to pay them ‘what is right’. Now these workers might not expect to get a full denarius, but they trusted the owner would pay them proportionately.
And when evening came, the owner said to his foreman, “Call in the labourers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.”
This fulfilled the Old Testament law which stipulated that the owner must not owe workers their wages overnight (Lev. 19:13; Deut 24: 14-15).
And when those hired about the eleventh hour (5pm) came, each of them also received a denarius. Now when those hired the earliest came forward, they expected to receive more, but each of them also received a denarius.
So, they were grumbling unceasingly at the vineyard owner, saying, “These who were hired last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and under scorching heat.”
The vineyard owner replied to one of them, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree to work for me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to these last workers as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious at my generosity?” (Vv. 13-15)
Why did those who come to work later also get a denarius? And if you were among those who were first to work, would you also grumble for being treated unfairly?
God's Grace Is Sufficient for Everyone
The vineyard master resembles God the Father, and the vineyard pictures Israel or the people of God. God the Father calls the workers into his Kingdom to receive salvation and serve. By this, the grace of God is expounded before the question of fairness even got into picture.
God is just and fair! He promised the first batch of workers a denarius, and he gave them a denarius. God is also gracious! For those who performed less than a day’s work, God also gave them a denarius which was beyond what they deserved.
The workers who came late to work represented those socially-marginalized people who were sinners, tax collectors, the sick and lame. They were weak, miserable and insecure. If they only received a fraction of one denarius, the amount would be insufficient to cover the needs of their family for a day.
The secular logic is to ‘earn as you produce’, but this is not the Kingdom logic. God wants to hire all, so that no person will be left idle hopelessly. God wants to bless everyone so that everyone will have enough. God's grace is sufficient for everyone; no one will be neglected!
Today are you among the ‘late starters, uncompetitive ones’ or the ones in desperate need? You do not have to worry, because God’s grace is sufficient for you to overcome your hardship and insufficiency.
If we are, we must stop making excuses for our own insufficiency. We are to take up responsibility; start giving generously, leaving the comfort zone, upgrading ourselves, participating in the ministries. The reason is because God will give us enough grace to complete the mission. The last will be the first!
We note that the first group of workers grumbled because they were "red eye; evil eye".
This means they envied those who received better treatment/reward. They did not share the same compassion of God.
Although they worked more than the other workers, they ought to be more thankful, as they got hired first, so they need not have to worry for the rest of the day. Without the grace of God in the first place, they would still be hanging around unemployed.
Thus, they could not produce anything and of course, there would not be any question of reward.
If we see it this way, the earlier batch of workers had only gained something but lost nothing.
If you are the one who do more or give more, you need not complain. For a dying person on bed would usually regret that he has not done enough for the kingdom of God.
If you begin counting the blessings of God, I am sure you will find that God never short-change you!
God does not want us to develop this attitude of comparing with others. Let’s simply serve the Lord faithfully; and trust that God will take care of our needs. No matter what the needs were of these different batches of workers, that "one denarius" was the sufficient grace of God!
We often want to commensurate rewards with our efforts. We want "fairness" in light of what we earn or are worth. However, in this parable, Jesus shifts our focus from reward to God’s grace and generosity.
While Peter thought that his sacrifice was great and deserved more rewards (in Chapter 19), Jesus reminded Peter that reward was never earned. One can only be a recipient of the grace and generosity of God. Without the sacrificial life- giving Christ, we all would continue to be in bondage to sin – remaining unemployed, and heading towards destruction.
Christ first loved us. He sacrificed His life for the remission of our sins while we were yet sinners. We can do nothing to earn His grace. Whether we are early or late, strong or weak, in abundance or in need, the grace of God – the ‘one denarius’ is sufficient for us.
To Make Up for the Members Who Are Lacking
If we feel jealous at those who "work less, give less" and yet receive the abundant blessing of God, then we are ungrateful people.
We have forgotten that we are also the eleventh-hour workers who do not deserve the generosity of God in the first place.
We are all accepted, loved and saved by God, not because of our efforts but purely because of God’s own grace. God saves us not because we are lovable, but because He loves us in a radical way. It is by this radical grace of God that we are able to work in the vineyard of God.
We are to share God’s compassionate heart to bless those who are lacking. We are to identify with those under-privileged, those in need of food on the table and those looking for a roof over their heads.
We are to reach out to people for the salvation of their soul, and also help them in providing basic facilities to them so that their overall well-being is enhanced, and that a community of “shared abundance” can be established after God’s heart.
What happened to the workers who complained and whose eyes were evil?
How would they respond to the reproach by the vineyard owner?
The answer lies in how you and I respond to this parable today.

2018年5月12日星期六

A Dreamer with A Mission

Genesis 37:1-28;
45:1-15
Joseph the Dreamer
We will first examine the life of Joseph from the perspective of “dreaming” in Genesis 37:1-28. Joseph was a dreamer. And then we will conclude Joseph’s life in Genesis 45:1-15, with the perspective of “mission”. He was also a man of mission.
Joseph had two dreams. In the first dream, Joseph and his brothers were binding sheaves in the field. His sheaf stood in the middle while his brothers’ sheaves gathered around it and bowed down to his sheaf. The second dream was even more fascinating. The sun, the moon, and eleven stars bowed down to him.
The two dreams indicated that, in the future, Joseph would be lifted up high and he would govern his brothers. In fact, his whole family would bow down to him. He had two dreams of similar nature, implies that, one day, they will certainly come true.
Joseph was young and inexperienced. He was also his father’s favorite son. As a high-spirited young man, he naturally told his brothers his dreams without reservation. Joseph’s innocence ironically deepened his brothers’ jealousy and hatred towards him.
Genesis 37 records that, one day, Joseph’s brothers went to pasture their fathers’ flocks at Shechem. Joseph went to Shechem from home to visit his brothers to check if they were fine.
When Joseph’s brothers saw him coming, they recognized him in the distance. As he approached, they made plans to kill him. They said, “Here comes the dreamer!” But Reuben said, “Let’s not kill him. Why should we shed any blood? Let’s just throw him into this empty pit here in the wilderness. Then he’ll die without our laying a hand on him.”
So when Joseph arrived, his brother ripped off the beautiful robe he was wearing. Then they grabbed him and threw him into the pit. They later sat down to eat. Then they looked up and saw a caravan of camels in the distance coming toward them. It was a group of Ishmaelite traders taking a load of gum, balm and aromatic resin from Gilead down to Egypt.
Judah said, “Instead of hurting him, let’s sell him to those Ishmaelite traders. After all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood. So Joseph’s brothers pulled him out of the pit and sold him to the traders. And the traders took Joseph to Egypt to be sold in the slave market.
The brothers thought they had once for all gotten rid of Joseph. They killed a young goat and dipped Joseph’s robe in its blood. They sent the beautiful robe to their father with his message: “Look at what we found. Doesn’t this robe belong to your son?”
Jacob recognized it immediately, “Yes,” he said, “It is my son’s robe. A wild animal must have eaten him. Joseph has clearly been torn to pieces. Then he mourned deeply for his son for a long time.
Let’s ponder here: what are the general characteristics of “dreamer”, like Joseph?
First, as the beneficiary of his father’s favoritism, Joseph was given a robe of many colors (37:3). This, of course, resulted in his brothers being jealous of him. A person who wore a robe was not suited for manual labor. This indicates that Joseph was not required to work with his brothers. Rather, he was to supervise them from the sidelines and to report his brothers’ shortcomings to their father (37:2). So Joseph was an outlier. His brothers were jealous of him and so they plotted against him.
Secondly, a dreamer is a visionary person. He foresees and creates the future. If we want to be faithful and forthright servants of God, to some extent, we need to be those who dare to dream or visionary people. Such people are forward-looking and can see the opportunities and threats that lie ahead. Such forward-looking ability creates in them sharp acumen and initiative to work hard and innovate. They will create the future and make dreams come true.
Due to his or her forward-looking demeanor and creativity, a dreamer gives others the impression that he is domineering. As a result, a dreamer may bring a rebound in the lives of others. Joseph’s dreams foretold that one day his brothers would submit to him and be governed by him, had resulted in his brothers’ brutal attack.
Dare to Be a Dreamer
Joseph’s misfortune warns us to be vigilant. As people with dreams, it is inevitable that we will face difficulties and attacks. In spite of that, we must dare to be a dream. We must not give up “dreaming” just because we hit a snag or someone sneered at us.
Throughout history, the great men and women were all dreamers. What were their most cherished and blessed moments? If we were to ask Joseph, he would say, “Being thrown into a pit by my brothers and left there to die!”
Today, if we are in a predicament that is akin to Joseph’s pit, do not forget that this pit will become our stepping stone to blessedness. Just as God preserved Joseph throughout his life, God will come to our aid too. Joseph’s fall into the pit became the opportunity for him to climb up the ranks to become the Prime Minister of Egypt.
Through means that are inconceivable to human beings, God can bring the good out of the evil. From Joseph’s persecution to his exaltation, we can see that the whole process was punctuated by a series of “coincidences.” This highlights to us God’s sovereignty and preservation behind-the-scenes.
At first, Joseph could not find his brothers. Had the story stopped here, Joseph would have escaped a very close call. However, he encountered a man at Shechem who directed him to his brothers (37:15-17). Then, Joseph was nearly murdered but he escaped death through the proposals of Reuben and Judah.
The appearance of the Ishmaelite traders was not by chance either. Joseph was ultimately sold to the Egyptians and through the various twists and turns in Egypt, he emerged as the Prime Minister. God was able to transform into good the evil plot of Joseph’s brothers to accomplish His good purpose.
Today, God is able to preserve us as we journey through our struggles. He guides us and strengthens us.  He helps us overcome all the obstacles, difficulties, and persecutions so that we may stand up again and press on!
As long as we persevere in our dreams and are patient and hardworking, one day our dreams will come true! The fact is that victory and truth belongs ultimately to those who dare to dream.
There is a Mission for the Dreamer
Joseph was sold into Egypt at the age of seventeen. Thirteen years later, his brothers came to Egypt to buy grain because the land of Canaan was experiencing severe drought and famine.
In Egypt, the brothers bowed down before Joseph. At that time, the thirty-year-old Joseph was the Prime Minister of Egypt who was responsible for the distribution of food to the victims of the famine. Joseph recognized his brothers but they could not recognize him for he was dressed like an Egyptian.
At first Joseph played several rounds of cat-and-mouse with his brothers but eventually he reconciled with them in a tearful episode. His first words of reconciliation to his brothers were, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt” (45:4). Obviously, Joseph did not forget the painful experience of the past.
Yet Joseph’s life was not imprisoned by the bitter memories of the past. He pointed out repeatedly that, “God sent me before you” (45:5, 7), and, “So it was not you who sent me here, but God” (45:8).
In other words, Joseph recognized that the events that happened in the first part of his life, including his dreams, were all according to God’s sending. Joseph did not divide his thirty years of existence into two halves – the happy and dreamy juvenile years by God’s grace and the latter thirteen years of dark and difficult years in the hands of his brothers. Perhaps we may consider our lives in this manner but that is not how Joseph saw his own life.
From Joseph’s perspective, God’s sending began from rosy, jolly, dreamy days in his father’s house all through to his brothers’ betrayal.  God’s sending extended from him, being brought into Egypt by the Ishmaelites to, from the slave market, entering into Potiphar’s house. God’s sending included the slanderous charges made by Potiphar’s wife and making acquaintance with Pharaoh’s chief cupbearer. Finally, God’s sending involved him interpreting Pharaoh’s dream and being elevated to the position of Prime Minister.
Joseph knew that these events were all part of God’s plan to send him to Egypt. They cannot be segmented into stand-alone episodes. More importantly, Joseph was clear that God sent him to Egypt to preserve the lives of his family members. Yes, the very lives of his brothers who sold him into Egypt. He realized his dreams and more importantly he lived out the mission of his life.
Today, God has chosen us out of all the people in the world while we were still sinners. It is absolutely not an accident that today we can grow in Christ and receive so much blessing from God, having had our dreams come true! This is all God’s plan. God has a plan for each and every one of us. So we must always have in mind our God-given mission to live out His plan for us.
At the age of seventeen, God sent Joseph from Canaan to Egypt without giving him any explanation or seeking his consent. He did not have a choice. But at the age of thirty, Joseph’s dreams came true. And more importantly, he had a choice to either accept or reject God’s mission for him. He could either forgive his brothers or exact revenge on them. What did Joseph choose?
Joseph did not smooth over his brothers’ fault. He said, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (50:20). The word “good” harkens back to the beginning of the book of Genesis, where God deemed His creation to be “good” (Gen 1:10, 12, 18, 25, 31).
After experiencing the highs and the lows of life, the days of comfort and of trouble, the times of joy and of sorrow, the long time ago dreams came true, Joseph had God’s mission for his life in mind. He was also grateful to God because he saw that he could become a channel of blessing for his family and human society. More importantly, he was able to fulfill God’s plan for his life.
From non-believers to having faith in Christ; in Christ we have grown in many aspects and dreams came true. These advancements are not just for our own good, blessing, and joy. It is all about God’s plan. God chose us to be His children and gave to us the mission of accomplishing His plan.
Let’s seek instruction from the Lord, obey His leading, and consecrate our whole lives unto God. Let’s now resolve to participate in God’s plan, God’s will, and fulfill our God-given mission, whether in season or out of season, in times of refreshing or in times of shortages, so that we may be worthy servants of God.
Only through such commitment and mission-mindedness can we live a life that is being sanctified from the world, set apart for God’s use. This life although is rather short in years, but will be visionary, meaningful and wholesome!