Today, I’m continuing my series on the symbolism found in the illustrations of my children’s book, “Finished: A Fictional Story With Heavenly Truth”. I’ve had the privilege of partnering with artist Terri Melia Hamlin, and together we’ve put together a story that is both appropriate and entertaining for the youngest of readers, yet contains deep theological truths for adults.
In the illustration above, we see the hands of Jesus holding nails as he continues work on a project. The picture is meant to remind us of the nails that would pierce Jesus’ hands and feet as an adult. Jesus’ childhood hands are open as he submissively accepts the fate he must one day endure.
Think about it. The same hands of God, that formed man from the dust of the ground, would be punctured by nails as he died to forgive man of his sins. The hands that healed adults and held children would be held in place by such cruel and rudimentary instruments. The very hands that spread wide to embrace the most wayward of sinners, were extended fully in love and sacrifice on the wooden frame of the cross.
Our hands, by contrast, abuse our fellow man, bruising his body and shedding his blood. They are far too often clenched in fists. Our hands steal and destroy and point accusing fingers at others.
The amazing news of God’s grace, however, is that Jesus solved the problem of our sin. He took our spiritual dilemma into his own forgiving hands along with the nails that pierced his flesh. He died to free us from our inability to keep and shear defiance of his perfect commands and rose again to offer us a new way of living, forgiven and free and held in his resurrected and nail-scarred hands. We are his people, both created and forgiven by him.
Genesis Chapter 40
Man Joseph had some extreme patience and trust in God. I could only hope that I had just a little tiny piece of this. Only a piece the size of a mustard seed will surely do!
A couple of Pharaoh's high ranking officials did something to upset him and he put them in the pen. Even in prison they still got special treatment because Joseph was assigned to them.
They had a couple of dreams, and Joseph's gift was - you guessed it - interpreting dreams. I love how Joseph's head didn't swell up. In verse 8 we see that Joseph brought all the attention to God: "Interpreting dreams is God's business." He completely pointed all of the attention to God and didn't let pride and possible recognition swell his head up. I struggle with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, so this is very hard for me to do. I love the recognition and the attention so it is a constant daily struggle for me to remain humble.
Joseph was completely aware of God's presence in his life, but I can imagine he was starting to become impatient with his circumstances. Believe me, I would have been impatient the 1st day of being in prison, especially since he is completely innocent.
After interpreting the dreams Joseph asks one thing from the Cup Bearer, a favor. He asks, "Please remember me and do me a favor when things go well for you. Mention me to Pharaoh, so he might let me out of this place. For I was kidnapped from my homeland, the land of the Hebrews, and now I'm here in prison, but I did nothing to deserve it."
Joseph's response to God's promises have been amazingly led by faith and obedience even when he has been through the ringer. When God gives us a promise and it seems it is never going to pass, we must still react most responsibly.
Our positive responses would include: prayer, faith, obedience, and EXPECTANCY!
With positive responses, there are always negative ones as well. This is where my problem occurs and I mess up. See, even if we are 100% conscious of God's presence and His promise to us, we still may act in unbelief trying to make things happen ourselves.
We see this with Joseph trying to run ahead of God by manipulating his way out of prison!
I mean, I can say nothing here but I am thankful that God has helped me recognize this. I am so bad to try and take things into my own hands and run ahead of him in making His promises happen in my life. And I am so impatient. I do this only after a couple days sometimes, and Joseph has been trusting and waiting for a decade or better by now.
Man O man, the things we can learn from this. I am hoping this will help me draw closer to God, and hopefully make less mistakes of trying to run ahead of Him.
When I think about it, I am crazy for thinking that I can do anything to accomplish God's promises in my life. What I can do is completely trust in Him and be completely aware of His loving presence in my life. And hopefully I can grow to a point to where that will be enough no matter my circumstances.
Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you.
Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful.
God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important.
As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.
God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin.
Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.”
Lord, I know that I mess up every single day. Multiple times a day. I am a mess trying to make it through this life. I thank you that you are always here with me. Today, I ask that you speak to me through your Word, and empower me by your Spirit to turn your Word into action in my life. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.
This Chapter reminds me of a lot of my failures and shortcomings. Joseph was much closer to God than I feel that I am. What I mean is that Joseph was much more aware of the presence of God in his life than what I am. Joseph easily walked away from temptation. And that is one of the reasons that he so easily did this is because he was completely aware of the power and presence of God in his life.
That definitely makes a difference on how we handle things.
For being obedient and doing the right thing, Joseph received prison for his reward!
Joseph picked up his cross and carried it with pure joy in the toughest of situations. He didn't complain, he didn't get angry at God, or give up because of the negative consequences he was experiencing for being obedient to God.
I truly believe that when God sets us apart for great things, there are great trials that are ahead for us to face. If we are completely aware of God's presence in our lives, and we are obedient and prosper through any situation because we trust God - then God knows we can rightfully take the spot of privilege that He has raised us up to take.
I believe that is what I am seeing through this chapter.
I need to remember that in my own life. I am so quick to blame God, or I'm quick to give up when things get tough. I sometimes do not finish things that I start - especially when they get tough or hard. Joseph reminds me that no matter what I am going through that I should always do my best.
And one way that I can be encouraged to do my best is to be aware of God's presence in my life. Fully trust Him and be obedient through every single thing that I may face (The blessings - and the struggles)!
Old habits die hard to me, so I really need to drive what I wrote into my mind. I see that Joseph was completely aware of God's presence in his life, but everyone around him was aware of it also. Verse 3 says, "Potiphar noticed that the Lord was with Joseph."
Potiphar probably didn't even know anything much about God, but he was aware of God's presence in Joseph's life.
That is powerful to me, because I don't think many of the people that I'm around would say that about me.
So my application is that I am going to start trying to turn my words into action. What I mean is that, I talk to God, I study my Bible, but when it comes to living the Bible - not so much. I am reminded that for some people, I am the only Bible that they may ever have the chance to read. So, it is extremely important for me to be aware of the presence of God in my life. The more I become to realize that and to trust that, the more I will be able to be obedient.
“Why” is more important than “how” in everything we do, especially concerning our service to the Father, and it’s when our motives are right in our serving Him that pleases Him the most. Regardless of the fact that our will is never to do anything with the wrong motive, we need to realize that there will be interruptions of the “old man” that will at times produce undesired results. The wrongs and sins in our lives are not to disappoint us, it being expected in an unavoidable degree; for He already knows out heart is ever for Him (Phl 2:13), and we should already know that He no longer regards us after the old man (Rom 8:9). Thus “all things” (Rom 8:28) are but ongoing lessons to us of which He desires us to know, understand and allow His precious Spirit to apply in our lives to be completely God-dependent.
The way in which Martha served was not acceptable to the Lord (Luk 10: 41, 42). The snare with zealous, but unbroken hearts is to do the right thing in a wrong way; that is, in a human way. It is not enough to know the right thing, but I must know the right way of doing it. The latter is not easily learned; the former is the fruit of light; the latter is never acquired but as there is practical grace, charity—the activity of the Lord Jesus Life in me by the Holly Spirit (Col 3:4).
Martha desired to minister to Christ, but instead of first waiting upon Him, and becoming imbued with His mind and tastes, she essays to serve at her own dictation. This was her mistake. When I consult the Lord Jesus’ tastes instead of my own, I am not the less ready to spend and be spent for Him; but I serve in quite a different way.
It never occurs to me that what I am doing is a burden, when I work in answer to His mind; on the contrary, I have the assured sense of pleasing Him, and this is the greatest gratification to my love for Him. I feel I cannot do enough. Instead of being wearied by my doings for Him, I feel they are quite inadequate to express the delight which it gives me to do anything which would meet with His approbation. When I have the sense of pleasing Him, my only thought is to do more; and my study, to follow on in the line which He likes.
Like a fruit tree, I bud and blossom, and bring forth fruit, encouraged at every step by the consciousness that I am answering to His mind, who planted me and gave me grace to bring forth fruit to His pleasure. It is a well-known fact, that the riches of the soil is never drawn upon, never exhausted until the fruit ripens. Green vegetables do not exhaust the ground.
There can be a great deal of green service, which is not a strain nor a tax on the servant; but when there is real fruit, there is sure to be both. I call it green service when a person spends what he cannot otherwise use; but I call it ripe fruit when one, in order to please the Lord in serving His people, curtails his own liberty, and deprives himself of many comforts which might be called needful. In fulfilling this service there is self-denial, but it is not felt to be a burden, like Martha’s (v 41), because of the delight of the heart in meeting the Master’s wishes.
The Christian is led of the Spirit to aspire to his proper service and calling; and the more genuinely he accepts this leading, and pursues it in faith—that is, in dependence upon the Father, “which teaches my hands to war, and my fingers to fight” (Psa 144:1)—the more surely and efficiently will he reach, and retain, the post assigned to him. The tree that has the best fruit has always the best and most healthy leaves. It is the small things which really constitute our testimony.
—J B Stoney (1814-1897)
MJS devotional for Sept. 16:
"It is basically the belief of the truth; it is not belief of the fruits. The Holy Spirit cannot present to me the fruit He has produced in me, as the object of my faith. He speaks to me of my faults, of my sins, but not of the good works that may be in me. He produces them in me, but He hides them from me; for if we think of them, it is but a more subtle self-righteousness. It is like the manna which, being kept, produced worms. All is spoilt—it is no more faith in action. The Holy Spirit must always present to me the Lord Jesus Christ that I may grow and have peace." -J.N.D.