Joseph and Daniel

Those familiar with the characters of the Bible are certainly familiar with the lives of Joseph and Daniel.  We have much to learn from these great men, who accomplished more in a their youth than most of us will in our entire lives.  Joseph was the favored son of Jacob (aka Israel), who was sold into slavery by his brothers, and ended up ruling Egypt during a time of world famine.  Daniel was taken as a young man to serve Babylon under the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, and ended up ruling over Babylon (and continued to serve the kingdoms of Darius the Mede, and Cyrus the Persian).

The parallels between these two men are stunning, even though their lives were separated by 1300 years.  Both Joseph and Daniel were taken against their will away from their families, in order to serve people and governments that did not even acknowledge the God of the Bible.  Yet even in their dire circumstances, there is no evidence that either complained about their situations.  Instead, they served their God by serving the ones who were put over them.  Their faithful service was both recognized and rewarded.   Although they did not always have the favor of men and leadership, their lives were marked by the success that they had while serving with great effort and humility.  Joseph served admirably in the house of Potiphar, so that his master had nothing to do but decide on his next meal.  Joseph was later was given all the power of Pharaoh.  Daniel was given 3 years to learn the language of his captors, and was quickly granted leadership over the wisest of the realm.  We should respond in the same way when we are given opportunities to serve those in leadership.  No matter what the beliefs of our bosses, our government, or our pastors, we are called to serve them as unto God with all of our body, soul, mind, and strength.  God is a God of order, and requires us to serve where we stand.  Instead of spending all of our time complaining about circumstances of work, country, family, and church, we should rather exhaust our efforts serving with the talents and abilities God has given us.  After all, if Joseph could prove reliable to serve even the master of a dungeon, are our circumstances really worse, providing us with an excuse to not serve them with greater honor?

These men also were granted very similar gifts.  They were both extremely wise, and were given the abilities to interpret dreams, and the opportunity to use this ability since God gave visions of the future to both Pharaoh and to Nebuchadnezzar.  While we are all not likely to be among those who have been given this particular ability, we must recognize that God gives us all gifts to serve at work, and at our churches.  We must not take these for granted, but must use them when we are provided the opportunity.  For some of us, this means praying that we would see the gifts God has given to us, and actively searching for opportunities to use them.

There are also differences between Joseph and Daniel.  Whereas Joseph was a man who was alone in Egypt, Daniel had the benefit of the company of Hananiah Mishael and Azariah (aka Shadrak Mishak, and Abednego).  Despite these differing surroundings, God gave each of them grace to withstand the temptations of their unique situations.  Tests are recorded for each of them: Joseph withstood the seduction of his master’s wife, Daniel’s three friends refused to bow to the idol and made it through the firery furnace, and Daniel himself later survived the lion’s den after continuing to pray even though it was against the law of the land.  Whether alone at work, or having the benefit of the company of other believers, we must spend time in the word and prayer, so that we may be able to maintain our testimony while living in the world that rejects it.

Lest you think that I am preaching to you alone, the message of these two men is just as much a challenge for me as you.  I have squandered many hours of my life ignoring those who should be my friends, not exercising the gifts He has given, and complaining and rebelling against those over me.  For these times I only ask forgiveness of both God and man, and hope and pray that when the opportunity again presents itself, I would be like Joseph and Daniel, and not like my flesh.

When should we turn to God?

We have been reading the book of Job together for a while, and many things that the players say are correct.  This can be confusing, but as Sam and I discussed yesterday, I think the overall point of the book is not only God’s sovereignty, but contains the practical message of turning to God.  We can see this message connected clearly from James 5:

‘You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.’

It doesn’t seem to Job in our current readings that God is compassionate or merciful, because Job is going through incredible trials, and will not remove the hand of Satan from him.  But what is more merciful?  Removing the present suffering? or allowing Satan to buffet Him while using the opportunity to make him more like Christ, and to allow him to learn valuable lessons about his Creator?

James continues:  ‘Is any among you suffering? He must pray.  Is anyone cheerful?  He is to sing praises.  Is any among you sick?  He must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if h has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.  Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed.’

So we pray to God in suffering, praise God when cheerful, and have others pray to God for us when we are sick.  The answer to the question is then obviously ALWAYS.  No matter what the circumstances, we are to turn to God.

Job’s friends did not have the benefit of James’ advice, but if they did, rather than lecturing Job, they would have prayed over him in the name of the Lord, and trusted God to forgive him, even if they believed he had caused the sickness committed sin.  Job had already demonstrated this by sacrificing for his children in the first chapter. Would God have responded with immediate healing? Perhaps not.  But perhaps the book would be much shorter!  Nevertheless, God is sovereign, and sometimes we learn better from mistakes.  Let us all learn from these men, and turn to God daily.

Marine Dad Banned from School

This Marine dad was banned from school for objecting to the school having his children learning the five pillars of Islam.  I totally agree with his wife saying that they are not allowed to teach the Ten Commandments, since this has affected history WAY more than the five pillars of Islam.  I also agree with the Marine in a way, because the five pillars have little to do with history, and more to do with religious observance.  For those of us who are not familiar:

    • Faith or belief in the Oneness of God and the finality of the prophethood of Muhammad;
    • Establishment of the daily prayers;
    • Concern for and almsgiving to the needy;
    • Self-purification through fasting; and.
    • The pilgrimage to Makkah for those who are able.

There is only one of these (almsgiving) which could be even remotely viewed as a non-religious item, and therefore under the laws of our land, the Marine is correct, and this could be viewed as indoctrination.  It is possible, and even likely, that he could have handled the situation better, but the principle should receive a reprimand, and forced to retract said ban.

Personally, I think we should know our enemy, and from a history perspective, we should know the facts of Islam and ALL its affects on society.  However, let them ban us from school for sharing the one true God, and His son Jesus, instead of demanding that our children not be exposed to the false-religions of the world (particularly if they are a Junior in HS).