Servanthood

Genesis 47:1-6

1Joseph went and told Pharaoh, “My father and brothers, with their flocks and herds and everything they own, have come from the land of Canaan and are now in Goshen.” 2He chose five of his brothers and presented them before Pharaoh.

3Pharaoh asked the brothers, “What is your occupation?”

“Your servants are shepherds,” they replied to Pharaoh, “just as our fathers were.” 4They also said to him, “We have come to live here for a while, because the famine is severe in Canaan and your servants’ flocks have no pasture. So now, please let your servants settle in Goshen.”

5Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Your father and your brothers have come to you, 6and the land of Egypt is before you; settle your father and your brothers in the best part of the land. Let them live in Goshen. And if you know of any among them with special ability, put them in charge of my own livestock.”

Protest

Are you concerned about Hong Kong protest? Professional athletes have been very vocal about their resistance to the president of the United States but they think twice or not willing to give their opinion about Hong Kong protest. Someone gave his opinion and social media had been polarized.

While concerned individuals may agree, others cannot accept anyone’s opinion. Telling the truth has its consequences. While there are few who can be trusted, not everyone can have similar concerns as others. Suffice to say that there will always be social issues that may intrigue or capture our attention.

How should believers respond to issues that may challenge our beliefs? You’ve heard that it’s not wise to spread ourselves too thin. We do not need to address all issues even if it challenges our beliefs. Sharing an opinion is good for learning experiences or exercises but “Be watchful of possible consequences!”

The Word of God says in 2 Timothy 2:2-6, The things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.  Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules.

Shouldn’t we be concerned of issues that help us make disciples more than issues that cause confusion? Political or social issues may affect us, but we should respect authorities who are qualified to find appropriate solutions.

As believers, we have priorities. We are mandated to witness for Christ and make disciples. We would rather want to be good soldiers of Christ than to be entangled in civilian affairs. We would rather suffer obeying the Lord than to cause confusion. We’ve got to be biblically obedient rather than politically correct.

The life of Joseph exemplified how believers live a godly lifestyle. Joseph was ruler of Egypt, and he was diligent in implementing decrees from Pharaoh. When Jacob and his household came to Egypt, Joseph told his brothers how they may answer Pharaoh. He presented to Pharaoh five brothers he chose.

1. Choice

1Joseph went and told Pharaoh, “My father and brothers, with their flocks and herds and everything they own, have come from the land of Canaan and are now in Goshen.” 2He chose five of his brothers and presented them before Pharaoh.

Joseph chose 5 brothers and presented them to Pharaoh. Why 5 not all?

When Joseph presented to Pharaoh the 5 brothers he chose, he displayed authority over his brothers. They may have desired to be recognized and appear before Pharaoh. They cannot do anything but to obey what Joseph has decided. Some of them may even hesitate to come forward when their names were called.

The Lord said in Matthew 22:14, “For many are invited, but few are chosen.”

The Scripture says in Romans 8:30, And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

Election

Federal election is coming. There are many candidates but few will be elected. Election is a legal privilege and right of citizens to voice out their choice of governance. Can you accept that it’s the will of God for specific candidates to be elected? Does God have preference which political party should win?

If it helps to accomplish His purposes, God lets particular party to govern.

Similarly, when we have church election, many were nominated. Some are qualified and notified but anyone God wants to lead will be elected. How about those individuals who were nominated and notified who choose not to accept the challenge of leadership ministry? God has specific ministry for each believer.

It says in 2 Peter 1:10-11, Make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

God has prepared a ministry appropriate to spiritual gifts He has given us. We’re mandated to make disciples and to testify for the transformational work of Christ in our life. It is very advisable to pray and ask God to clearly reveal how you may exercise and practice your spiritual gift in your chosen career.

2. Career

3Pharaoh asked the brothers, “What is your occupation?” “Your servants are shepherds,” they replied to Pharaoh, “just as our fathers were.” 4They also said to him, “We have come to live here for a while, because the famine is severe in Canaan and your servants’ flocks have no pasture. So now, please let your servants settle in Goshen.”

The term “occupation” pertains to career, business or activity as means to earn a living. ‘Occupation’ or ‘career’ demands careful attention and sufficient time. To enjoy your career, discover your calling in your chosen occupation.

The brothers that Joseph presented to Pharaoh were not identified, why?

Was it because of their answer when Pharaoh’s asked about their occupation?

It says in Proverbs 16:13, 13Kings take pleasure in honest lips; they value the one who speaks what is right.

Did the brothers try to impress Pharaoh when they said that they will stay in Egypt for a while? Did Pharaoh sense hypocrisy or insincerity of their words?

Earlier, Joseph advised his brother what to say when Pharaoh asks them. Exactly as Joseph said, Pharaoh asked his brothers about their occupation. He advised them in Genesis 46:33-34, “When Pharaoh calls you in and asks, ‘What is your occupation?’ you should answer, ‘Your servants have tended livestock from our boyhood on, just as our fathers did.’ Then you will be allowed to settle in the region of Goshen, for all shepherds are detestable to the Egyptians.”

Joseph’s brothers were shepherds. And that was exactly what they told Pharaoh when he asked them about their occupation. They answered him just as Joseph told them but why add their intention to stay in Egypt for a while? What were they thinking of? Was it really because they’ve got no pasture in Canaan?

Maybe, they planned to live in Egypt for a while because they’re thinking of returning to Canaan after the famine has gone. What caused them to plan on temporary stay in Egypt and not for long-term? Was it because the Egyptians did not like shepherds? And, why should they inform Pharaoh about their plan?

Presumably, they implied that they did not want to take advantage of the generous hospitality of Pharaoh. They may want to prove that they can survive independently. When Joseph chose only five brothers he presented to Pharaoh, they may have sensed the authority of Joseph, and they have to obey him.

So, when they told Pharaoh that they came to live in Egypt for a while, indirectly, they expressed their resistance to Joseph’s authority. They did not like Joseph to tell them what to do. Their plan didn’t materialize though, why? It’s not within God’s plan. It was God’s plan for them to live all their life in Egypt.

Interview

It was told that someone applied for a position in a prestigious institution. During the interview he was asked. “If ever you are chosen to fill in the vacancy, what is your personal plan?” “Here’s my short-term, mid-term and long-term goal, and I plan to explore upgrades in my career,” he added. Are you impressed if you interview applicants like him? He was rejected because the interviewers were searching for someone who can commit for long-term career in their institution.

When Pharaoh appointed Joseph as ruler in Egypt, he allowed Joseph to rule until he was able. In contrast, the brothers of Joseph planned to stay in Egypt temporarily and planned to return to Canaan after famine has gone.

Their lifestyle and behavior represent similar perspective of some believers about life priorities. When we try to be independent from the Lord and don’t want God’s word to dictate how we may live, unknowingly, we try to impress the Lord.

Anyway, God’s purposes prevail. Proverbs 20:24 says, A person’s steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand their own way?

The brothers of Joseph assumed that they will live in Egypt temporarily but including the 2nd and 3rd generations, they spent the rest of their life in Egypt.

The Lord has decreed that the Israelites lived in Egypt for 400-years. He caused severe famine in the entire ancient world and forced them to relocate to Egypt. The Lord fulfilled what He revealed to Joseph that he will be greater than his brothers. And, his brothers found it hard to believe that it really happened before their eyes, and that was why, they planned to return to Canaan.

Pharaoh may have glanced at Joseph to confirm the plan of his brothers.

When Joseph said nothing, Pharaoh may have understood that Joseph did not know about it and did not inform him of their plan to temporarily stay in Egypt for a while. Pharaoh did not bother to investigate why Joseph’s brothers said that they plan to stay in Egypt temporarily, since Egypt has everything they needed.

Pharaoh trusted that Joseph can handle it. So, before their eyes, Pharaoh gave Joseph the power to settle them in the best part of Egypt. In their hearing, Pharaoh told Joseph to appoint competent members of his family.

3. Competence

5Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Your father and your brothers have come to you, 6and the land of Egypt is before you; settle your father and your brothers in the best part of the land. Let them live in Goshen. And if you know of any among them with special ability, put them in charge of my own livestock.”

Pharaoh gave Joseph the authority to designate the best part of Egypt as residence of his family and appoint competent members of his family as steward to be in charge of his livestock. Joseph’s brothers heard what Pharaoh decreed. They may have felt insignificant that Pharaoh honored Joseph before them.

It says in Proverbs 14:35, A king delights in a wise servant, but a shameful servant arouses his fury. And in Proverbs 25:6, Do not exalt yourself in the king’s presence, and do not claim a place among his great men.

Pharaoh wasn’t impressed when the brothers told him of their stay in Egypt as temporary. They heard Pharaoh decreed the authority of Joseph to designate the best part of Egypt as their residence and to appoint competent stewards in charge for his livestock. Did they sense it when it seems like they’re ignored?

Joseph’s brothers went to Egypt because they were starving in Canaan. They knew that it will take a while before famine will be gone and economy may not recover instantly. But look at that!?! They resided in best part of Egypt. They are stewards in charge of Pharaoh’s livestock. What else can you ask of such privilege? Their life opportunity in Egypt was better than in Canaan, right?

Why return to Canaan? Their cruelty toward Joseph haunted them. Each time they see Joseph, they were terrified that they sold him. And then, their world turned upside down. The brother they maltreated harshly, became their ruler.

The brother who pleaded for his life when they sold him, the brother they hated the most supplied their needs abundantly. He settled them in the best part of the land. He also appointed some of them who have special ability to be stewards in charge of Pharaoh’s livestock. That was supposed to be an added guarantee of food supply, that as long as Pharaoh has food, they have food.

Can you imagine the parallelism of Joseph’s life story with what happened to our Lord Jesus? Christ was crucified because of our sins. And He also offers life to its fullness to everyone who believes in Him, not temporarily but eternally.

It says about Jesus in John 1:11-12 & 16, 11He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12To all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God… 16Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given.

The brothers of Joseph came to Egypt because they’re starving in Canaan but they only planned about temporary solution to their problem. Similarly, many people come to the Lord for temporary solutions for temporary needs.

Pharaoh granted Joseph to designate the best part of Egypt for his family and to assign them to serve as steward in charge of his livestock.

Similarly, all authority in heaven and on earth had been given to the Lord Jesus. He came and offered life to its fullness and to serve in His kingdom.

In Hebrews 2:10-12, In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered.  Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.  He says, “I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters; in the assembly I will sing your praises.”

When Joseph presented his brothers to Pharaoh, it was a representation of the event when the Lord Jesus Christ presents all believers as His brothers and sisters before God the Father. When Joseph settled them in the best part of Egypt, it represents the event when Christ Jesus settles us in heaven eternally.

When Pharaoh told Joseph to appoint anyone he knows with special ability to serve as steward in charge of his livestock, it also represents the event when Christ assigns all believers to serve in His kingdom according to our competency.

This competence is a special ability to accomplish an assigned task. Just as Pharaoh demands special ability for stewards in charge of his livestock, the Lord requires competence from kingdom servants. This competence acceptable to the Lord represents the spiritual gifts He gave to each believer.

See! Joseph’s brothers were all shepherds but not everyone was qualified. Pharaoh wanted a steward with special ability. Similarly, all believers can serve God but He wants us to serve Him according to the competence He gave us.

Ministry Teams

When the Board of Trustees introduced Ministry Teams, the main purpose was for all members of the church to have opportunity to practice spiritual gifts. It is not officially included in our Constitution and By-Laws because it is still in its feasibility period as realignment of our approach to ministry. Board of Ministry was introduced in the proposed amendment of our Constitution and By-Laws but it was not very clear to many church members and polarized opinions and ideas.

All ministry approaches cannot guarantee spiritual growth. Strategies in the ministry are useful but only the Lord can make us grow spiritually.

It says in 1 Corinthians 3:7-9, Neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service…

Twenty eight years ago, God called individuals to start this church.

Some have gone eternally. Others have moved on to start another church.

We who are left attending in this congregation, what should we expect that the next generation may tell their contemporaries or their children?

Seek the Spirit of revelation so that you may discover and be confirmed of your calling. And seek the Spirit of wisdom so that you may use your special ability, your competence, your spiritual gifts appropriately and diligently.

When everything is  said and done, we agree with King David in Psalm 78:4 and say, “We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done!”

Happy 28th Anniversary The Maples Evangelical Church!

May God bless this church exceedingly well while we serve Him!

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