Blessed Is The Man (Psalm 1)

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!” (Psalm 1:1)

Psalm 1 opens the Book of Psalms by plainly stating what it is in life that brings true happiness. The word translated here as blessed may more accurately be rendered as happy, as versions such as the Christian Standard Bible read. We see here in the NASB the word How preceding blessed because the term in the original is emphatic or stressed. “How very happy is the man…” might be a good way to open the verse and the entire Book of Psalms itself.

Ask most people what leads to pure happiness and it is doubtful that many will tell you that joy is found in obedience to the precepts of God. But that is exactly what the Psalmist is saying. Rather than counseling us, as the world does, to “go with the flow”, “make friends and be popular”, or “do your best to fit in”, we are told the opposite. The happy man does none of these things but separates himself from the actions of those who are in rebellion against God. Joy and happiness are not to be found in the noisy, crowded bars and nightclubs or at the parties of the rich and famous, but in quiet meditation upon the Word of God.

“But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:2)

The law of the Lord is not something with which the happy man is burdened, but it is something wherein he delights. Jesus told His followers to take up His yoke, for it is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:30). Those who believe that obeying God is restrictive and that the Bible doesn’t allow Christians to have fun could not be more mistaken. Life and joy can only be truly found through living by the principles of God’s Word.

“And not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together and went on a journey into a distant country, and there he squandered his estate with loose living.” (Luke 15:13)

The prodigal son of whom Jesus told thought that true happiness was to be found away from his father and by living according to his own desires. He believed that his father’s rules were restrictive and supposed that freedom from the father’s house would bring him joy and pleasure. But it did not. Celebration and rejoicing in our Lord’s parable does not come when the young son heads off to the distant country, but when he returns home (Luke 15:32).

[Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.]

Joseph’s Brothers In Egypt

“And Joseph was the governor over the land, and he it was that sold to all the people of the land: and Joseph’s brethren came, and bowed down themselves before him with their faces to the earth.” (Genesis 42:6)

With the arrival of Joseph’s brothers in Egypt, there is a literal fulfillment of the prophecy Joseph gave back in Genesis 37:7. The brethren fall down and bow before their brother, for he is the viceroy over all the land. The prophecy has been fulfilled, Joseph has been elevated to a position of power, and his brothers have been humbled in his sight. But strangely enough, Joseph chooses not to reveal who he truly is to them at this time. Rather than identifying himself to them and seeking a peaceful reconciliation (or else exacting retribution for their treacherous deeds), Joseph conceals the fact that the man who they supposed was long since dead is the same one seated upon the throne before them and speaking through an interpreter.

What follows over the course of the next few chapters might seem to be a very peculiar and capricious way for Joseph to deal with his brothers: the one moment accusing them of espionage, the next lavishing gifts upon them; at once locking them away in prison, only to quickly set most of them at liberty. What exactly was Joseph attempting to accomplish through all of this? First of all, there can be no doubt that God Himself was guiding Joseph’s decisions through this entire ordeal. God had a definite purpose for each and every one of the actions Joseph would take. Secondly, we understand that Joseph’s harsh treatment was the most expedient method for convincing the brothers to bring Benjamin into Egypt. And thirdly, had Joseph revealed himself immediately, it is very likely that the brothers would have never returned at all after this first visit. We learn later that they continued to fear the prospect of Joseph seeking revenge against them, even until the end of their lives (Gen. 45:3, 50:15). Perhaps a fear for their own safety would have prevented them from returning again once they had made it back home to Canaan.

“And they said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us.” (Genesis 42:21)

As we begin to consider the specific details surrounding Joseph’s dealings with his brothers, much about it seems very familiar. The locking away in prison, the “sacrifice” of the younger brother, the adoration for one brother (Benjamin) above the others are all staggeringly similar to events which we have already read. Many people today reject the idea of “what goes around comes around”, or “as a man soweth, that shall he also reap”, but the sons of Jacob obviously did not. Their assumption concerning the treatment given to them is that they have fallen under the judgment of God. They believed that what had come upon them was a direct consequence for what they had earlier done to Joseph.

So what was the purpose that God was accomplishing in the lives of these men? We learn later that this was not a judgment upon them, so what was it? It is an often visited theme in Scripture, as well as a reality in the lives of many believers, that the Lord will bring us to a place of testing precisely at a point wherein we have failed before. So many times, to our own horror, circumstances will line up in such a way that we are brought face-to-face with a situation similar to one which previously resulted in sin and failure. We sometimes find ourselves again in a place marked by our own sinfulness and shame. But God does not allow us to re-enter such predicaments that we might fail again, but that we might do what is right. For a second time, the precious life of Jacob’s most beloved son is in the hands of his eldest ten sons; how will they respond?

The testing that the brothers will undergo is so that Joseph might know if these men had changed since the time they dealt so wickedly with him, and so that the brothers themselves would know if they were any different. This time of trial was for the benefit of the sons of Jacob, but not God. God knew what the outcome would be; our testing is never for Him to learn something about our character, but for us to learn something about His. We never truly know the strength and vitality of our faith until it is tested.

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published October 19, 2010]

All Scripture quotations in this post are taken from the King James Version (KJV) of the Holy Bible

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

Joseph In Prison

“And they said unto him, We have dreamed a dream, and there is no interpreter of it. And Joseph said unto them, Do not interpretations belong to God? tell me them, I pray you.” (Genesis 40:8)

To be completely honest, I prefer Chapter 41 of Genesis over Chapter 40. Chapter 41 is a reassuring portrait of justice being meted out in the life of Joseph; it is a perfect picture of God rewarding His own faithful servant and lifting him from the depths of an Egyptian prison cell to the second most powerful position in all of the land. It is that blissfully comforting resolution which is common in all of our favorite stories (fiction and factual) and the ending that we all so wistfully yearn for at the turning points in our own lives. But Joseph is not a remarkable man because he knows how to trust God while seated on a throne beside Pharaoh, but because he knows how to trust God while chained to the wall of a prison cell.

Joseph is just as aware that he has been placed exactly where God wants him in the bowels of Pharaoh’s dungeon as he will later be in the majesty of Pharaoh’s court. Like the Apostle Paul will declare centuries later, Joseph is able at the end of his own life to declare without pretension that he, too, knows how both to be abased and to abound (Phil. 4:12). It is the rarest of faith that is not content to simmer in the recesses of the soul during seasons of trial, compelling the suffering servant to remain silent around others about his beliefs until his trust in God is visibly vindicated. Joseph’s is not a faith barely hanging on as it so often feels when we face our own darkest hours, but a vivacious and exuberant trust in the Living God.

That he remains ever cheerful even in the confines of incarceration is evidenced by Joseph’s heartfelt concern for his temporary companions as he is moved by their dampened demeanor on the morning following their revelatory dreams. “Wherefore look ye so sadly today?”, he inquires (v. 7). Such a question posed to men in a desperately hopeless situation who know nothing of the Providence of God must, in itself, seem peculiar at best. Nevertheless, the chief butler and the chief baker share their concerns with the chief trustee of Pharaoh’s prison. “We have dreamed a dream“, they lament, “and there is no interpreter of it.” Joseph’s response, in light of all that he has gone through hitherto, is extraordinary: “Do not interpretations belong to God?…”

It was not very difficult to stand as a faithful witness of God’s goodness and glory adorned in the coat of many colors and living in the warmth and safety of his father’s house, but what about in the prison cell? Joseph continues to glorify God and tell others about Him even as his own circumstances appear to be deteriorating beyond hope. What must the butler and baker have thought about this young Hebrew and his talk of a foreign God Who alone possesses the answers to the questions of the heart? It must not have appeared to them that God was doing much in this man’s life. But Joseph praised God and gave glory to Him, nonetheless. Going all the way back to the days of Job, it has always been the tendency of man to view a person’s circumstances as an indication of whether or not God’s favor rested upon them. Even to this day, there are those who proclaim a person’s prosperity is in direct proportion to the strength of their faith. Yet Joseph certainly lacked no faith and more dire circumstances for him can scarcely be imagined. Joseph understood that those who will serve God must yield themselves to be used for His purposes and for His good pleasure, not their own. Regardless of the situation, Joseph knew that God was causing all things to work in his best interests according to His own purposes (Rom. 8:28).

“And the scripture was fulfilled, which saith, And he was numbered with the transgressors.” (Mark 15:28)

Finally, we see even in this hour of Joseph’s life further similarities between him and the Lord Jesus Christ. Although guiltless, Joseph finds himself in the same predicament as two malefactors. To the one he proclaims deliverance and redemption, to the other judgment and condemnation. Yet Joseph will not arrive in Paradise on that same day with the chief butler but must await God’s perfect timing to see his own redemption. Joseph’s work is not finished, for he has yet another dream which must be interpreted. Although Joseph is unwaveringly faithful in his service to God, it pleases the Lord to leave him right where he is until such time that his path will cross that of none other than Pharaoh himself.

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published October 1, 2010]

All Scripture quotations in this post are taken from the King James Version (KJV) of the Holy Bible

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]