The topic, as I learned, were the things we need to practice before God's greater blessings can help us. And we started out Monday in Genesis 41. This is the chapter were we find Joseph in jail after Potifer's wife lied about him, two years after he interpreted the dreams of his fellow prisoners, the royal cup taster and the royal baker. Joseph was two-for-two on the dreams, and the cup guy promised to say something to Pharoah when he was released. Two years later, Pharoah has his dreams about the lean cows and the scraggly corn, and cup guy says, "Oh, yeah, I forgot I was going to tell you about this guy in jail..."
So Pharoah brings Joseph out of jail, with a chance to stay that way if he can interpret the dream. Now here's the point. Joseph thought that intrepreting cup guy's dream was God's way of getting him out of jail. But two years go by- he could have been sore at God, at cup guy, even at Pharoah since he was in jail for a crime he never had the pleasure of committing. But his gentle answer speaks to the character of the man:
So Joseph answered Pharoah, saying, " It is not in me; God will give Pharoah an answer of peace." (Gen.41:16)
It was that peace and patience that God wanted from Joseph, and as a result, he became second in command of all Egypt.
Tuesday brought me to the unlikely spot of the last chapter of Ezekiel. Here we find a dry going through of how the new earth (after judgement) will be divvied up amongst the twelve tribes. But in verse 9 of Ezekiel 48 we find the story coming to the district set apart for the Lord, and the people who shall inhabit it:
In the center of it will be the sanctuary of the Lord. 11 This will be for the consecrated priests, the Zadokites, who were faithful in serving me and did not go astray as the Levites did when the Israelites went astray. 12 It will be a special gift to them from the sacred portion of the land, a most holy portion, bordering the territory of the Levites.
13 “Alongside the territory of the priests, the Levites will have an allotment 25,000 cubits long and 10,000 cubits wide. Its total length will be 25,000 cubits and its width 10,000 cubits. 14 They must not sell or exchange any of it. This is the best of the land and must not pass into other hands, because it is holy to the Lord.
So here we have the sons of Zadok being rewarded because they held their ground when everyone else- including their nominal bosses, the Levites- went astray. Patience, then perserverence- and I would need both at the end of our tale.
Wednesday brought us to the first chapter of Esther. And here I knew this was being led by God, because Laurie has been trying the random reading as well, and she had Esther the night before (when I had Ezekiel) and the same chapter in Ezekiel this time! And from Esther we drew the story of Xerxes ( Ahasuerus if you prefer) having a party and sending servants to go fetch Queen Vashti to show her off- and she refused. Now, mind you, this the Great King of all the lands of the earth who just got dissed by his wife, and 99% of the great kings of history would have probably sent her straight to the royal gallows. Verse twelve does say "his anger burned within him."
But that's not what he did. Since it was customary for the king to consult experts in matters of law and justice, he spoke with the wise men who understood the times 14 and were closest to the king—Karshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena and Memukan, the seven nobles of Persia and Media who had special access to the king and were highest in the kingdom.
Instead of giving reign to anger, he consulted the wise counsel of men "who understood the times". Vashti got a new lease on life, though at the cost of her title, and Xerxes not only gained a better wife in Esther, but a fine advisor in her uncle Mordecai. Patience, perseverance, seek wise counsel.
But Thursday became difficult. After flipping to both Numbers and 2 Samuel without finding anything that fit the pattern, I fell upon Acts 2, where Peter was preaching at the first Pentecost.
36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.
Jesus talked about the Spirit's conviction in John 16. Somewhere between the "covincing" of one definition and the "criminality" of another, this conviction means that the Spirit, as He did to these men, cuts through to our heart if we let Him, opening us to be truly repentant. So we have patience, perserverance, counsel, and conviction/repentance. But Friday I became stuck again- at least to myself- as I landed back at the same spot in 2 Samuel. I looked at it, and the spot in Numbers, and wondered what I was missing.
The spot was chapter's three and four, with an emphasis on ch. 4 vv 9-12. Herein we find David, shortly after Saul's death, but the civil war went on as Saul's son Ishbosheth carried on his father's kingdom with Abner as his general. But Ish and Abner had a falling out, and Abner "suggested" Ish find a way to reunite with David. Long story short, Abner got killed by the suspicious general Joab, and another group took matters into theit own hands and beheaded Ish. See why I wasn't sure about where this was going?
But what happens is, not only does David curse Joab and memorialize Abner, but check this reaction out:
8 They brought the head of Ish-Bosheth to David at Hebron and said to the king, “Here is the head of Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, your enemy, who tried to kill you. This day the Lord has avenged my lord the king against Saul and his offspring.”
9 David answered Rekab and his brother Baanah, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, “As surely as the Lord lives, who has delivered me out of every trouble, 10 when someone told me, ‘Saul is dead,’ and thought he was bringing good news, I seized him and put him to death in Ziklag. That was the reward I gave him for his news! 11 How much more—when wicked men have killed an innocent man in his own house and on his own bed—should I not now demand his blood from your hand and rid the earth of you!”
12 So David gave an order to his men, and they killed them.
David could have easily said, "these were evil things that worked out to my good." But he refused to have his ministry (rule) tainted by evil deeds, no matter what the results- or intentions- were. So we add to our list honor and not putting the ends before the means.
But something was still missing, and I couldn't figure out how to get there for the life of me. I had to work Saturday morning (which I really couldn't see the point of), and I decided I would take advantage of wise counsel- listen to a message on the way in. The Message was delivered by Tony Evans, a man I remembered well. You see, on the night after Shenan was born, I took KC up to see his new little sister. On the way home, we listened to a message from Tony, and it stuck with my little 4-year-old compatriot for a long time. Not sure if he still remembers it, but I do. Anyway, he brought up the concept that Church is like a mini heaven because we are to minister to God. In other words, God is to be the AUDIENCE at church, not the other way around. He went on to explain that to hear the Spirit's call for us, we need to be worshipping in church, not just listening, because "Worship is the antenna that we tune the Spirit in with!" And I saw that I was having my problems this week because I was forgetting not one (the wise counsel), but TWO of the things God requires for us to gain His greater blessing, and that second is Worship.
Patience. Perserverance. Counsel. Conviction/repentance. Honor. And Worship makes six things God asks of us for His greater Blessing. And Tony capped it off with a second wise counsel, one which is why I even do this. "The Bible is not sufficient in and of itself. Because it contains all the principles you need, but not the specific application to individual situations. If it did, it would be as big as this room!" It was when I applied the two things I'd been ignoring that this all came together. And I walked into work telling my co-worker, "NOW I know why I'm here today!"