Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Seek Good and Not Evil

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

“Seek good and not evil, 
That you may live; 
So the LORD God of hosts 
will be with you, 
As you have spoken. 
Hate evil, love good; 
Establish justice in the gate. 
It may be that 
the LORD God of hosts 
Will be gracious to the 
remnant of Joseph.”
Amos 5:14-15

So a remnant of Joseph... He is that guy with 12 brothers from 4 mothers. He was the favorite of His father and the other brothers were a bit jealous. It's a pretty dysfunctional family. Dad had 4 wives, the one he really loved has died, she was Josephs mom. So Joseph and little brother Ben have no mom to look out for them and Dad probably tries to pick up the slack - which makes the others envious. His father makes him a special coat of many colors that pretty much announces to the others that this is the son who Dad will make into the next leader of the family. 

That would have been plenty enough to make the brothers upset. Then Joseph starts having dreams about things bowing down to him. The brothers get some crazy idea that if they could just get rid of Joseph that everything would be better. Dad would look at them and see their value and worth. He would pay attention to them. The rightful oldest son would carry on the leadership. Everything would be so much better if they could just get rid of Joseph.

One day they are out taking care of sheep far from home and off in the distance they see Joseph coming to check up on them. The tattle tale will tell Dad they were not grazing where they were supposed to be.  So they gang up on him and put him in a dry well planning to kill him.  Along come some merchant slave traders and they decide to sell Joseph to them. Off Joseph goes betrayed by his brothers to Egypt.

You might think the brothers had solved their problems but when they told their dad that Joseph had been killed, that day they lost their Dad too. He was never the same after learning of Josephs death. His hopes, his dreams, his reason to get up in the morning all gone. The brothers spend the next 17 years with a depressed and dejected dad, who now clings to little Benjamin like he's the only thing left that is precious or good in the world.

Joseph spends the next 17 years first in slavery, where he learns many skills because everything he puts his hand to is blessed by God. So he is promoted up and up until he comes to the attention of the masters wife. She tries and tries to get an affair going with Joseph and at one point rips his clothes from him when he refuses her. She, then scornful and rejected sets him up as having molested her.  So off Joseph goes to prison. Even there he finds favor and while I'm sure it was not easy he is put in charge of things. A long time later two guys from the palace get tossed in prison and have dreams. Joseph is able to tell the meaning of the dreams and it turns out he was right. But the guy who he was right about gets busy and forgets about him until years later when the Pharoh starts having dreams and can't find anyone to make sense of them for him.  "Oh yeah - when I was in prison master there was a guy who told me what my dream ment and he was right". So they clean up Joseph and bring him in. He does bring Gods wisdom and warning and the Pharoh does heed it. Joseph says find someone wise to manage things in the 7 years of plenty. Well Pharoah picks Joseph. In an instant thing change for him. He goes from slave to second only to the Pharoh himself.  The story goes on and you can read it in Geneis 39 and on and you can go back a bit to catch some of the back story.

Joseph is one of my Bible favorites. His story of faith, trust and hope in God despite years of hardship and every circumstance in his life saying other wise.  Faith is the substance of things hoped for the evidence of things not seen. We all know how Joseph's story ends but he did not know other than those crazy dreams he had as a young man while still at home with Dad and the brothers. I know how those dreams must have challenged him. The Lord has shown me some things through the years and during the time of having to trust and believe in spite of everything that appears impossible in the road between here and there. There are days when I can think - I must just be nuts to believe for this impossible thing that God has shown me. It is in those times that I look back and remember other things that God has shown me that have happened. He reminds me of things he has told me to do and say and how my faith started a chain reaction in the lives of others. When the weight of trust and faith gets too heavy I stop and look back and remember the many things God has done. 

In those times when the weight of trust and faith becomes heavy and the logical thing to do is to sit down in dispair and in worry. I choose not to - I look for the things that I can do at present and I do those things. I find things to thank the Lord for in my present situation and circumstance.

I think the last part of our verse today speaks of keeping current with the Lord.  Hate evil, love good; Establish justice in the gate. It may be that the LORD God of hosts Will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.  I don't think any of us can rest on our past successes. Today is the day we must choose to follow the Lord. We can think that our place in the family tree gives us a greater advantage.  Much of Israel and even Josephs family after him fell away from the Lord and turned to worshiping the gods of the surrounding regions.  God always has a remnant of the faithful who choose him today and will choose to walk with him tomorrow no matter what hardships they may face.  We are in good company when we follow the example of people like Joseph. Life gave him lemons and he made lemonaid. He he could have done the least to get by and exist as a slave. He was not that kind of a guy, he did his best in every situation. He learned and he became skilled and he grew in wisdom and favor.

 Who of us can say if our difficult circumstances are a tool in the hand of God to create in us the character, and the skills and the wisdom for some future use that we cannot even yet see.

The Prayer Loft at my church where my art is featured.
Dear Lord,
I pray that you will help us each to make the most of the circumstances that we find ourselves facing. How can I stop blaming the people around me and decide to be a better person. How can I change my attitude, and focus to make it more pleasing to you Lord. Help me to be thankful for even the difficulties that you allow in my life. Help me to not resist the wine press. I don't want to sit around and become spoiled fruit. I want to become fine wine that brings you glory and honor. So Lord I must submit not only to the wine press but to the time of waiting for the juice to ferment and become aged to become its most rich and full and flavorful wine to grace the table of the Lord of Lords.

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