God our Shepherd

Genesis 48:8-16

8When Israel saw the sons of Joseph, he asked, “Who are these?”

9“They are the sons God has given me here,” Joseph said to his father.

Then Israel said, “Bring them to me so I may bless them.” 10Now Israel’s eyes were failing because of old age, and he could hardly see. So Joseph brought his sons close to him, and his father kissed them and embraced them.

11Israel said to Joseph, “I never expected to see your face again, and now God has allowed me to see your children too.”

12Then Joseph removed them from Israel’s knees and bowed down with his face to the ground. 13And Joseph took both of them, Ephraim on his right toward Israel’s left hand and Manasseh on his left toward Israel’s right hand, and brought them close to him. 14But Israel reached out his right hand and put it on Ephraim’s head, though he was the younger, and crossing his arms, he put his left hand on Manasseh’s head, even though Manasseh was the firstborn.

15Then he blessed Joseph and said, “May the God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked faithfully, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, 16the Angel who has delivered me from all harm—may he bless these boys. May they be called by my name and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac, and may they increase greatly on the earth.”

Advent

Today, we celebrate the first Sunday of Advent. The term “Advent” originated from Latin word ‘adventus’ which means “to come” or “to arrive.” Among Christians, “advent” pertains to the coming or arrival of Christ.

Traditionally, we celebrate the birth of Christ on Christmas day which was the first advent or arrival of Christ as human on earth. And every first Sunday of the month, we celebrate the Lord’s Supper to remind us of His Second Advent.

Truly, we should eagerly look forward to the return of Christ!

We are reminded in 1 Corinthians 11:26, 26For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

Indeed, we share the gospel of Christ because of our hope for His return, His Second Advent, and we expect that He will take us into His heaven. Do you hold onto this hope and expectation? How do we practically prove that we hope for Christ’s return? We tell our personal experience of Christ with our loved ones.

As believers, we accepted Christ as Lord and Savior. And, the Lord has revealed Himself to each of us very uniquely. How I personally came to know Christ is not the same as anyone else. You came to know the Lord at a time and situation very different from others. Recall how Christ reveals Himself to you!

If you talk about what Christ has done in your life, how would that be?

When Israel was old and advanced in year, he blessed his son Joseph and told him that God is his shepherd. How is it like to have the Lord as shepherd?

1. Believe

8When Israel saw the sons of Joseph, he asked, “Who are these?” 9“They are the sons God has given me here,” Joseph said to his father. Then Israel said, “Bring them to me so I may bless them.” 10Now Israel’s eyes were failing because of old age, and he could hardly see. So Joseph brought his sons close to him, and his father kissed them and embraced them. 11Israel said to Joseph, “I never expected to see your face again, and now God has allowed me to see your children too.”

We may interpret that Israel had regularly told his household how the Lord took care of his needs all the days of his life. God’s provision during famine was a great example. Many years before they came to Egypt, his sons reported that Joseph may have been killed by wild animals and showed him the fancy robe of Joseph tainted with blood. We can recall in Genesis 37:35, 35All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. “No,” he said, “I will continue to mourn until I join my son in the grave.” So his father wept for him.

Israel may have believed the report of his sons that Joseph has really died.

Joseph was his son with his wife Rachel. He had others sons but Joseph was his favorite son. Israel had expected something great to happen with Joseph, and then his sons reported that Joseph was killed by wild animals.

When Joseph was a young person, he had dreams, and he told his father. It says in Genesis 37:10-11, 10When he told his father as well as his brothers, his father rebuked him and said, “What is this dream you had? Will your mother and I and your brothers actually come and bow down to the ground before you?” 11His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.

Israel may have considered deeply that Joseph’s dream was a revelation from the Lord, and he expected it to happen. Eventually, Joseph’s dream turned into reality. Israel said that he didn’t expect to see Joseph again but he did. His mourning has turned into joy, and all the more joyful when he saw Joseph’s sons.

Freedom of Speech

Sometimes, it shakes our faith in the Lord when we hear disturbing reports. When you hear news of snow storm, accept the possibility but don’t get confused easily. Not all news reports come as realities. Consider speculations possibilities. Similarly, we may hear storms of life, family or church problems, not a few are bothered, confused or shaken. Most often, God shakes us to evaluate our faith.

Sad to say that freedom of speech has been abused deceitfully. Influential individuals may twist their reports for personal gain or political gain. Christian communities can also be affected by serious spiritual concerns from every angle.

The Lord Jesus warned it in John 15:18-21, 18If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me.

In this world, genuine believers can never escape from persecution, why? The Lord Jesus declared it, and it certainly comes into reality. Christ is the Truth. Whatever He says is true. Whatever He predicted will certainly come true.

Every Christmas, we celebrate the greatest proof that whatever God says will surely happen. An angel of the Lord told Mary that she will get pregnant and give birth to a son. Mary was puzzled how it can happen since she was a virgin.

Gabriel, the angel of the Lord answered Mary with confidence and told her in Luke 1:37, 37For no word from God will ever fail.

Christ was born and exemplified how to live godly life when persecuted.

We celebrate Christmas joyfully even when the world is not very friendly. Godly rejoicing does not come from outside but from the Holy Spirit inside us.

We study the word of God to learn from the experiences of godly people. Most often like Israel, we lost hope of great possibilities to happen in our life because we can be easily persuaded. There are times when our faith is shaken or even grow cold. This reality happened even in the first century Christianity.

Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Thessalonians 3:1-5, 1As for other matters, brothers and sisters, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. 2And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith. 3But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one. 4We have confidence in the Lord that you are doing and will continue to do the things we command. 5May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.

Israel had never expected to see Joseph again after it was reported that he may have been killed. Now, don’t just believe anything you hear. Be prayerful, and ask the Lord to bring to your attention what He has prepared for you.

2. Bring

12Then Joseph removed them from Israel’s knees and bowed down with his face to the ground. 13And Joseph took both of them, Ephraim on his right toward Israel’s left hand and Manasseh on his left toward Israel’s right hand, and brought them close to him. 14But Israel reached out his right hand and put it on Ephraim’s head, though he was the younger, and crossing his arms, he put his left hand on Manasseh’s head, even though Manasseh was the firstborn.

Joseph brought his sons closer to their grandfather Israel after Joseph bowed down to the ground. Pause for a moment! Imagine about the situation.

Joseph came to see his father, Israel told him about the Lord’s promise to be fruitful and multiply numerously and his descendants will inherit the promise land, and when he saw the sons of Joseph, Israel revealed that after it’s reported that he was killed he didn’t expect to see Joseph again. And, Israel declared that God made him saw Joseph again and his grandchildren from Joseph, too.

Israel kissed and embraced the sons of Joseph. Then, Joseph moved his son away from his father, and then he bowed down as proper show of respect.

Why Joseph did not bow down first and foremost, before he let his sons went near their grandfather? Israel was not very concerned about bowing down. He rejoiced to see that Joseph brought his sons to him. That rejoicing must have come from God because Israel acknowledged the Lord’s faithfulness to him.

Psalm 71:18 says, Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come.

That was exactly what Israel did when he proclaimed the Lord’s care for him from the time he left Canaan to find his wife, when he returned to Canaan with his family, when they relocated to Egypt during famine, and finally, when he saw the children of Joseph. Israel must have been full of rejoicing in his heart.

What is it that you would tell your children and grandchildren when you talk about the faithfulness of God to you? What practical goodness happened to you personally? What experience in life that you would credit the Lord about it?

Gov. Greg Abbott

The governor of Texas, USA, Greg Abbott was paralyzed from the waist down after a freak accident. He has used a wheelchair ever since. He has been attacked and mocked before by his political opponents for being in a wheelchair.

He posted online a video of a young man in a wheelchair climbing up an indoor wall with the caption: “Never quit. Never give up. Overcome any challenge.”

One person commented: “So great to see (the video) but if I ever end up in a wheelchair I’m just ending it.” Abbott responded by reflecting on his own experiences: “That’s what I thought before I ended up in a wheelchair. I’ve done more AFTER the accident that left me paralyzed than before that accident. With God all things are possible. God didn’t cause the accident that left me paralyzed, but He did help me persevere over that enormous challenge. I’m a testament that the glory of God is revealed by a young man’s back being broken in half and still rising up to be Governor of Texas. With God all is possible.”

Nobody can deny the testimony of Gov. Abbott. He must have fullness of rejoicing in his heart. Truly, every genuine believer will face reality challenges.

God would even take our favorite thing, dream or person to test our faith in Him.

When Israel heard the report that his favorite son may have been killed, he mourned all his life until he personally saw Joseph again. Aren’t we just like Israel? We also mourn when our favorite person or item is taken from us?

Surely, Joseph may have felt very sad when he was sold as slave. He may have accepted that he would never see his father again. He kept on trusting God, though. And the Lord blessed him, and his dreams have turned into reality.

3. Bless

15Then he blessed Joseph and said, “May the God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked faithfully, the God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, 16the Angel who has delivered me from all harm—may he bless these boys. May they be called by my name and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac, and may they increase greatly on the earth.”

Joseph and his sons heard directly from Israel’s words that the Lord has been his shepherd all his life, and he interceded for Joseph’s sons that the same Lord his Shepherd will grant them similar blessing and deliverance from all harm.

Bless just as you were blessed. What is it that normally comes to mind when we hear the word “blessing?” For Israel, God’s blessings included his personal experience of the Lord’s deliverance from harm that he encountered all his life.

When Israel took his family and all his properties and returned to Canaan, he did not say “Good Bye!” He did not tell his father-in-law, Laban, the father of his wives. And, Laban was offended. He followed and overtook Jacob but the Lord warned Laban not say anything good or bad that may provoke Jacob.

When Jacob arrived in Canaan, he may have been scared that his brother Esau will kill him. Actually, Jacob left Canaan earlier after he took the blessing intended for Esau, and Esau held a grudge against Jacob and planned to kill him.

Jacob prayed for the Lord to save him from the hands of his brother Esau.

And the Lord told him in Genesis 32:28, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

The last problem that Israel encountered was the severe famine, and God used it for him and his family to relocate to Egypt. His son Joseph provided for their needs. That is how shepherds do. Shepherd provides for the needs of his sheep. He keeps them away from harm. If sheep trust him, they shouldn’t worry.

I lack nothing

King David had certainly learned his lesson from the story of Israel. Israel declared that the Lord has been his shepherd all his life. Similarly, King David has also declared that he was like as sheep to the Lord his Shepherd.

King David eloquently described in Psalm 23:1-6: 1The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. 2He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, 3he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. 4Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. 5You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Can you say that you are satisfied and lack nothing? The Lord is your shepherd.

Do you have peace as if sitting next to quiet water? The Lord is your refresher.

Do you decide and do things for the sake of Christ? The Lord is your guide.

Are you afraid of possible recession or problem? The Lord is your comfort.

Do you feel secure even if people oppose you? The Lord is security guard.

Do have assurance to be with God forever? Truly, the Lord is your Shepherd.

Christ our Lord says in John 10:14-16, 14“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.

As we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we are reminded of Christ death and resurrection. Christ our Shepherd was crucified for the penalty of our sins, and we expect His return to take us and live with Him in His heaven for all eternity.

><((‘> … ><(((‘> tmec\2019 <‘)))>< … <‘))><

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