The Spirit of Forgiveness

Now therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that you sold me here for God did send me before you to preserve life. Genesis 45:5

I chose this passage today for a reason.  We are living in trying times.  It appears life is changing that this will be one of those dramatic times in history when life forever changes.  Perhaps no one can relate to this more than Joseph

Joseph refused to hate his brothers.  It never pays to hate. Hate is a killer.  First, it kills you – it murders your better self before it kills others.  Everything pure and good and kind dies in that atmosphere. Why? Because hate is hell. Love is heaven.

Joseph has been the hero of thousands because of his high ideals and because he lived up to them.  So many of the Bible heroes show us their human side, and perhaps in a way, Joseph did as well when he was young.  But as Joseph grew, he matured. Events forced him to decide whether he was going to hate or love.

You see, his brothers envied him, hates him, and planned to kill the dreamer. Then before they carried out their action to kill him, they sold him as a slave.  As the caravan journeyed toward Egypt, Joseph passed his father’s tents.  He wept, longing to see his father again.  The journey was difficult and lengthy, which gave Joseph plenty of time to reflect on what had happened.   He knew he had a decision to make.  While joseph the captive was carried to Egypt, as his father’s tents disappeared from view, he decided to fully give himself to the Lord.

His soul thrilled with the high resolve to prove himself true to God, not just in this instance but under all circumstances and in all places that he would find himself. He resolved to serve the Lord with undivided heart; he would meet his lot’s trails with fortitude and perform every duty with fidelity. It was then, while riding that camel toward Egypt and away from his father’s home, that Joseph decided that hate had no place in his heart.

One day’s experience had been the turning point in Joseph’s life. What is most important is that Joseph remained true to these high ideals, for he resisted every temptation and every opportunity to hate.  When Potiphar’s wife tempted, he responded, “How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God? For his commitment to do what is right, he was put in prison by the lie told by Potiphar’s wife.  When forgotten in jail, Joseph still believed that one with God is a majority over all that should come against him.

The sandalwood tree is an interesting tree, for when you attempt to cut it down, a sweet perfume is sent into the air with each blow of the ax.  Joseph’s life is like that sandalwood tree.  Each attempt to cause Joseph to fall or falter filled the air with the sweet perfume of God’s love living out through him until even his own brothers could experience that same love.  Love never fails, for he won back his brothers because he loved them.

You see, forgiveness is the perfume, which is pure and sweet,

Which roses give such a sweet smell to bless the careless feet that crush the newly fallen petal.

O God, may I, like Christ, thus bear my fate and bless the ones who crush me on a cross.

God, teach me to love like you, for love is the glowing gem of forgiveness.

Prayer

Prayer. We have all done it, and we have all felt our prayers did not pass above the ceiling.  Yet prayer is considered to be the conduit, an open highway to God.  Jesus said, “Men ought always to pray, and not to faint” (Luke 18:1).

Why have we forgotten to pray? It seems we only pray when there is an emergency.  In our fast-moving age, we become very conscious of which highway we are on. Yet prayer is the high road, the king’s highway that helps us through life, death, and starlit spaces.

Out human thoughts and works are not so mighty
That they can cut a path to God, unblessed,
and so from Him the gift of prayer is sent us
To hallow both our labor and our quest.
Over life, and death, and starlit spaces
The highroad runs, that at His word was laid,
And reaches Him across the desert places;
By prayer it is our pilgrimage is made.

At Bethel, Jacob had a dream in which we saw a ladder set up on the earth. The top of the ladder reached heaven, and the angels of God ascended and descended upon it. Along with you and I, Jacob is encouraged by the truth that heaven and earth are not separated, that there is still a highway, even a ladder between man and God.

There are several essential features of prayer. Fundamental to them all is a recognition of the character of God and His relationship to us.  Jesus taught us to say, “Our Father,” when we pray.  Then the purpose of prayer is to give praise and glory to God.  It is not because He needs it, but it is our way of worshiping Him for the beautiful blessings He has given to us.

Prayer involves Thanksgiving because we recognize God’s true character and his constant affection toward us as displayed in His continued love and mercy toward us, even when undeserved. Paul told the church in Philippi, “In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Philippians 4:6). But before we make any requests of God, we are to recognize His universal dominion, His authority over all the universe and ourselves, for “His kingdom rules over all” (Psalm 65:1,2).

What are the correct types of petitions concerning our welfare that we should bring before God?  There are three.  1. They are prayers that recognize God as the provider of all our necessities. 2. Prayers that confess our sinfulness and seek God’s forgiveness. Finally, number 3. Prayers that recognize Him as our hope and refuge against all the workings of the evil one.

In Jesus’ life, He practiced prayer, and in His words, he teaches prayer.  The whole aim of His life of ministry and sacrifice was to bring us all back to God through redemption and adoption as sons and daughters of God.  Why? So that His disciples might pray in His name. Jesus’ incarnation, His suffering, His ministry as our high priest is all for this, that we can be reunited with God.

In closing, there are six petitions for spiritual blessings in the Lord’s prayer and only one for our temporal wants.  We need to remember that. Above all else, prayer is spiritual in its nature, its results, and the reasons behind it.  The Lord’s prayer itself reveals Jesus Christ.  Someone has said that He is in every word of it, that it is the “condensed substances of all previous prayers.”

Peace

From ancient times until our time, the hearts of men have longed for peace.  This peace includes peace from war and peace of mind, heart, and soul.  Israel of old would pray. “Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace” (Numbers 6:26). 

If you were to travel through the middle and near east, everywhere, you would hear the words “Salaam Aleikum.” The English translation would be “Peace be unto thee.”

I wonder, what did Jesus say about peace? To his disciples then and in all ages, He said, “Peace I leave with you” (John 16:33). The peace that brings calm to the soul and through each individual, and to the world is found only in Christ, who is the Prince of peace.  Peace, true peace can be found nowhere else.  We drive ourselves insane, searching that which can only be found in Christ. For it is only through Jesus who brings an end to the discords of life, that we find peace.

Wherever there is sin, and trust me when I say at all times, we are not far away from evil. We learn by experience that disobedience of God’s law leaves us without peace.  We feel like we are being tossed about on a troubled sea.  According to Isaiah, the prophet, “there are many plans for peace, but they all fail” (Isaiah 57:20, 21). High-minded, self-sacrificing men and women have worked for world peace and spent millions of dollars seeking it, yet they have not achieved it.

Shortly after World War I ended, the American editor Edward Bok offered a $100,000 prize for a plan to ensure universal peace.  Twenty-Two thousand plans were submitted in the contest.  As you can imagine, judges debated long and hard over several.  Yet some they swiftly passed by because they were too short and the most sensible plans in some cases.  The shorted one they passed over contained just two words, “Try Jesus.”  The judges passed over it, but why shouldn’t we try Jesus?  It is really the only plan that will work.  Yet, we continue trying to cure our ills and the worlds with remedies that have failed a thousand times in the past.

While secretary of state for the United States, Charles Evans Hughes said that peace seems to be merely the lull between inevitable storms.  Another described it as an “ideal lost in inaccessible distances.” Certainly, Clausewitz’s verdict is that peace is at best but a truce on the battlefield of time. In one of his letters to Voltaire, Fredrick the Great declared that as he ran over history pages, he noticed that ten years never seemed to pass without a war somewhere.  It is the intermittent fever that might have moments of respite but would never cease.

From a human standpoint, he was right.  But from God’s viewpoint, he is wrong.  War will cease. God’s Word tells us so.  Christ will come, then war will cease, and cease forever.  He will bring the peace that men for millennials have strived for and dreamed.

Isaiah, the prophet in the book that bears his name, states in chapter 35, verse seven, “The parched ground shall become a pool and the thirsty land springs of water.” The American Standard Version of the same passage states it beautifully when it says: “The mirage shall become a pool.”  In other words, the dream of peace will finally become a reality.

Let’s close with these words written by the disciple Peter in II Peter 3:13.  “The new heavens and the new earth will be a place wherein dwells righteousness.”  This will only happen when Christ sits on His throne. Then humankind will finally know world peace and peace within their hearts.

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