Reading: Romans 8:28-39
I wonder what things stood out to you in this week’s reading (Genesis 24-42). One thing that caught my attention was found in statements like these: Genesis 26:24, 28:13,15; 31:3,42; 39:2-5, 21-23.
From a seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness perspective, I thought we could explore this together this morning.
Paul wrote in Romans 8:31 If God is for us, who can be against us?
God specifically said of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph that He was with them. How did they know God was with them? In most cases, when the Bible says that it follows by telling us of some positive blessing upon that person. Abimelek said of Abraham in Genesis 21:22 God is with you in all that you do. Jacob said to Laban in Genesis 31:42, “Unless the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had been with me, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed. God has seen my affliction and the labor of my hands and rebuked you last night.” In Genesis 39 where Joseph was a slave of Potiphar, we read that God was with Joseph and made all Joseph did prosper. God didn’t stop Joseph’s brothers from selling him as a slave, but protected him from death. God’s blessing on Jospeh was still obvious to Potiphar. He saw it and made Joseph head over everything he owned. God was with Joseph, but that didn’t stop Potiphar’s wife from framing Joseph and causing him to be thrown in prison. But God was with Joseph there too, and gave him favor so that Joseph was put in charge of everything in the prison. Finally, Pharaoh realized God was with Joseph and put Joseph over all Egypt to prepare for the famine.
What happens to us when God is with us?
First of all, things don’t aways go the way we would like. Just a brief look at the patriarchs reveals that just because God was with them did not guarantee a life of comfort and ease.
Abraham faced challenges and struggles that tested his faith and tried his patience. While waiting on the promise of children, a promise God gave Abraham and reminded him of it over and over through the long years, Abraham’s faith was tested. Sarah came up with an alternate plan through Hagar and we saw how God even worked a blessing into Ismael’s life. When finally Abraham and Sarah have Isaac and Isaac grows up a bit, God, who is with Abraham, gives Abraham the greatest test of all. God tells Abraham to offer Isaac as a burnt offering. Now we know how the story turns out, but Abraham, hearing God’s command, must have faced some difficult emotions about this, don’t you think? In some ways this test may have been harder, or at least as hard as Job’s. We have an entire book on Job’s trials, but that one chapter of Genesis 22 was amazingly challenging as well. Abraham faced challenges as God was with him. Not to mention the things Isaac, Jacob and Joseph faced.
Seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness is an adventure filled with a wide range of possible challenges and present dangers. David said, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. Your rod and your staff they comfort me…”
Secondly, even when God is with us, we don’t always do as well as we should. While walking with God, we still often stumble, yet God knows us and can work all things together for good.
Isaac and Rebekah give us a picture of parental favoritism, where the father loves Esau more and the mother loves Jacob most. Jacob and Esau themselves demonstrate sibling rivalry, and, in fact, were twins, fighting in the womb before their birth! Some kids start earlier than others, don’t they? The key story about Isaac and Rebekah’s favoritism is found when Isaac is already old and wants to give his blessing to Esau, the oldest, and the manly hunter. Mama Rebekah overhears Isaac’s plan and intervenes. She sets up Jacob to intercept the blessing. You read it this week, did you not? Genesis 27.
Just imagine fooling your husband into giving the best of the inheritance to your own favorite child over his favorite. It’s an interesting story, but God had already planned for Jacob to receive this and it just so happened that God worked through Rebekah’s trickery to bring it about.
This brought about a course of action that sent Jacob far away to Padan Aram where he met Rebekah’s brother, Laban, and married his two cousins, Leah and Rachel. There Jacob builds a family of 12 boys and a girl. At each section of Jacob’s adventure, he encounters God. His faith in God seems to rise and fall as he faces one situation after the other. After the loss of Joseph, Jacob’s world seems to go into a tail spin and he becomes deeply pessimistic and self pitying. In the years that he is grieving about Joseph, we find that God is working in Joseph’s life preparing Joseph to deliver his entire family from devastation in a seven year famine. At the last, Jacob’s faith is finally revived.
Seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness does not mean you and I will not falter along the way. Seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness first gives our lives direction and allows God’s working in our lives in spite of our weaknesses and failings.
Thirdly, we discover that whether we walk with God or not, God has ways of working His will through us.
Joseph’s brothers had no intention of doing the very things that would bring Joseph’s dreams into reality! Joseph, early in life, as the favorite of Jacob, get’s special treatment from his doting dad. Jacob seems blind to the dangers. Joseph has two dreams that are one and the same. (Incidentally, Pharaoh has two dreams that are one and the same later). But Jospeh tells his dreams to his brothers and they know exactly what his dreams indicate: Joseph is dreaming of ruling over them. Jacob’s gift of a special coat to Joseph was an indicator not just of Jacob’s favoritism, but also of who Jacob planned to give the greater inheritance. Joseph tattled on some of his brothers too, and that didn’t help matters either. They hated him. Then, Joseph has these two dreams and tells them to his brothers and father. Even Jacob rebukes Joseph, but, as Genesis 37:11 tells us, Jacob kept the matter in mind.
In this story we clearly discover that God is with Joseph. The Bible does not say that about his brothers at this point. In fact, earlier, when they leave Shechem in Genesis 35:2 Jacob tells his sons, and the others with him to put away the foreign gods you have with you and purify yourselves… And, in Genesis 38 we find Judah going into who he thinks is a cult prostitute. Interestingly, the Bible juxtaposes Judah’s story there with Joseph’s refusal of Potiphar’s wife’s advances in Genesis 39.
Jacob’s 10 older boys discovered what God can do through them even as their intentions went in the opposite direction.
Not seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness first does not mean God will not work through you. In fact, God is king and works through His creation whether we believe it or not. God IS King. You ARE His creature. He WILL do what He choses through you. But you will miss the reward of His grace and glory if you continue to refuse to acknowledge Him and seek Him.
Fourthly, when God is with us, He leads us to an ultimate place of blessing that makes the trials fade away. All those mentioned in Genesis discovered this truth. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph… all found the great benefit of following in God’s will worth the pains of the journey. Like we read in Job’s life, his trials ended in vindication and restoration.
For all who listen to Jesus’ words and do them, there is this promise and encouragement for the Lord Himself: Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you. Plus: whoever hears these words of mine and does them is like a wise man who builds his house on the rock (now notice what happens) the rains come, the streams rise and the winds beat against that house (everyone, even we who seek God’s kingdom and righteousness face the rain, the rising streams and the beating winds…) but, his house stood firm!
So once more with feeling: When God is with us,
First – things don’t always go the way we like
Second – we will all struggle with flaws
Third – Even if we reject Him or do not believe, God can and will work through us anyway
Fourth – If we do seek His kingdom and righteousness first, God will ultimately bring us to glory, an eternal glory that far outweighs any of the temporal struggles along the way.
“Art thou weary?”
Saint Stephen the Old Man (725–796)
ART thou weary, art thou languid,
Art thou sore distressed?
“Come to Me,” saith One, “and coming,
Be at rest.”
If I find Him, if I follow,
What reward is here?
“Many a sorrow, many a labor
Many a tear.”
If I still hold closely to Him,
What hath He at last?
“Sorrow vanquished, labor ended,
If I ask Him to receive me,
Will He say me nay?
“Not till earth, and not till heaven
Finding Him and following, keeping,
Is He sure to bless?
“Saints, apostles, prophets, martyrs,
The question we must ask and answer about seeking the kingdom of God and His righteousness first is this:
Is it worth it? You have to answer that for yourself. The Bible says it is, but we all must choose. Paul says that our light and momentary afflictions are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. That is faith. That is choosing to put God’s rule and righteousness first.
Is it worth it?
Think about this:
When God looked at us in our sin and fallenness what did he say about you and me. Saving us would mean Jesus’ death on the cross. If God asked Himself about saving you, “Is it worth it?” What was His answer? Heaven’s answer to you and me is clear: God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.