30 Mar

The Salt of the Earth: What a Calling

     “Ye are the salt of the earth, but if the salt have lost His savor, wherewith shall it (the earth) be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out and be trodden under the foot of men.” (Matt 5:13)

     If the Christian fails to answer this calling, how will the world be salted:  that is spiritually influenced?  Salt is a seasoning which enhances flavor. The Christian may “season” by example and influence.  Salt also purifies.  In ancient times, salt was used in medicine.  In the Old Testament, salt was required in every sacrifice. Also, a covenant of salt signified an everlasting covenant.

     Salt symbolizes purity, perfection, wisdom, fidelity, and durability.  Most importantly, salt works as a preserver. Imagine that the Christian influences were removed from the world.  Who would preserve morality?  Who would contend for peace and truth?  It is the Christian influence that has preserved principles of godly living and the necessity of law and order.  The Christian influence is a vital part of society.

     The last part of Matt 5:13 presents the challenge for the Christian to be salt that retains the savor (likeness ) of Christ. The taste of godliness refreshes the soul in a land of sin where many need to: “Taste and see that the Lord is good:  blessed is the man that trusts in Him.” (Psalm 34:8)

09 Mar

Gentle, Faithful Joseph

There is much to be learned from Joseph who is a testimony of a true servant of God. Many godly traits are evident throughout his life, but above all of these, his faithfulness and gentleness distinguish him as one of the most Christ-like characters in the Bible.

Joseph was the eleventh son of Jacob and first-born son of Rachel. He was known for his coat of many colors, a gift from his father. Jacob’s favoritism toward Joseph created ill will between Joseph and his elder brothers.

Joseph’s faithfulness is evident in his early years when his father asks him to got to Shechem to check on his brothers’ well-being. When he does not find them there, he follows them on to Dothan, where he is told they went. However, this good intent costs Joseph many years of separation from his home. When his brothers see him, they plot to kill him, but instead they sell him to a caravan of Ishmaelites on their way to Egypt. Once in Egypt, Joseph is sold as a slave to Potiphar an officer of Pharaoh. Through God’s help, Joseph again shows his faithfulness and is soon entrusted with all of the affairs of Potiphar’s household.

However, Joseph encounters an obstacle. Because of his moral faithfulness, he refuses the advances of Potiphar’s wife. Unfortunately, because Joseph leaves his coat when fleeing from her, she uses this as evidence when she tells Potiphar that Joseph has made advances toward her. As a result, Joseph is put in prison, but God is with him. Soon, because of Joseph’s faithfulness, the keeper of the prison makes him overseer of all the prisoners. Among the prisoners are two of Pharaoh’s officers: the baker and the butler for whom Joseph interprets their dreams. When the butler leaves the prison, he promises Joseph that he will make mention of Joseph to Pharaoh. Two years pass as Joseph remains in prison.

Finally, after Pharaoh has two dreams which no one can interpret, the butler remembers Joseph and tells Pharaoh of his ability to interpret dreams. Joseph is brought before Pharaoh to interpret his two dreams. Joseph gives God the glory when he says: “It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace.” (Gen. 41:16) Joseph informs Pharaoh that there is to be seven years of plenty and then seven years of famine in the land. Joseph advises that during the seven years of plenty, surplus produce be stored up for the years of famine. Joseph is now 30 years old. Pharaoh promotes him and says: “Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the spirit of God is?” (Gen. 41:39) Joseph is given rule over Pharaoh’s house and is made second in command to rule the land.

Hearing that there is corn in Egypt, Jacob sends his sons to Egypt to buy grain. When Joseph sees them, he recognizes them. Here we see the gentleness of Joseph as he is overcome with such joy that he flees from their presence and weeps but does not make himself known. Eventually, when the brothers have to return for more grain, Joseph makes himself known to his brothers and says: “So now it was not you that sent me hither but God.” (Gen 45:9)

Joseph persuades his brothers to return to Canaan and bring Jacob and all their possessions to Egypt to live. Jacob lived 17 years in Egypt with Joseph and was privileged to see his two grandsons, Manasseh and Ephraim, grow up. Joseph lived to be 110 years old. Believing that God would bring his people out of Egypt to the land which He had promised Abraham, Joseph asks that his bones be carried with them to be buried.

God shows His faithfulness to Joseph in the last chapter of Joshua. After being in Egypt for 430 years and then after all the years it took to possess the land God had promised, finally Joseph’s bones are buried in Shechem, where he was sent centuries ago to check on his brothers before being taken to Egypt.  Today, Joseph’s gentleness and faithfulness remain a message of encouragement to us. How amazing are the works of our God!

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