When the World is Against You!

When the World is Against You!

I have no doubt most of us can recall a season of life when we felt the world was against us. This was the experience of the patriarch Jacob, father of the twelve tribes of Israel, and recipient of the Lord’s great promises to his forefather Abraham.

(Genesis 25-36) Jacob’s troubles began as a young man fleeing the anger of his twin brother, Esau, whose birthright and blessing Jacob had swiped with the help of his mother, Rachel. Jacob ends up working like a slave for 20 years under a dishonest relative, Laban, before he is able to return to his father’s land. Even though the Lord ensured Jacob’s growth and prosperity after those 20 years, it was a long, perilous season of life for him.

After a crippling time in prayer with the Lord, Jacob, reaching a makeshift peace with Esau, was able to settle back into his homeland and eke out an existence with continual challenges.

(Genesis 37-41) One such challenge was with his second youngest, Joseph, whom Jacob favored, which favouritism incited jealously in his older sons.

Their jealousy grew into hatred. And one day they sold Joseph as a slave into Egypt. To cover their tracks they faked a fatal animal attack to their father Jacob, which plummeted him into deep, unrelenting sorrow.

(Genesis 42) Fast forward about 15 years. Their father has never recovered, and he copes by holding close Joseph’s younger brother, Benjamin. Yet, by this time the older brothers deeply regret their evil toward Joseph and the grief it caused their father, a heavy burden they secretly carry.

During this time frame, utterly unknown to his family, the Lord had raised Joseph to second in command in Egypt, the superpower of the day.

In time the Lord also brought a severe famine on the mediterranean world. Yet, the Lord had abundantly prepared Egypt in advance for the famine through Joseph. In order to avoid starvation, Jacob sent his 10 older sons to Egypt to buy grain.

Thus, Joseph meets his brothers, whom he recognizes though they do not recognize him, thinking he was long dead. Joseph seizes the opportunity to test them to discern if any change has occurred in them for the good and to know the wellbeing of his father and younger brother.

Joseph, having charged his brothers with espionage, required them to produce their youngest brother, Benjamin, to prove their story and so continue to purchase grain. Believing God arranged for their judgment, and that their family was facing an existential crisis, the older brothers readily offer themselves in Benjamin’s place. Thus, it is evident to Joseph that his brothers have changed, and also that his father and younger brother are well.

Forced to comply, with the prospect of further losing his youngest son and one of his older sons, Jacob hits rock bottom and cries out (Genesis 42:36 NIV): “Everything is against me!”

In this moment, humanly speaking, Jacob’s long, difficult story appears anything but blessed of the Lord God.

Yet, the good news is that, even though Jacob and his sons could not see that through everything that came to pass, including the evil done to Joseph, God sovereignly worked for their true good and his glory!

God’s plan was simply beyond their comprehension.

Next time you feel the world is against you, even though you know not how, fully trust God is working out everything for the good of all who are in Christ (Romans 8:28-30).

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Rest!

Rest!

Are you experiencing an unsustainably exhausting and seemingly unending stretch in life? Are you run off your feet spinning plates with no discernible purpose or end in sight? Is the world taking more from you than it is giving back? Are you beyond what a good night sleep or a week away can fix? Are you on the verge of making a poor decision out of desperation?

While important changes may be necessary in overwhelming times, there is a much more basic answer. It is the Sabbath Day of Rest God designed for humankind (Genesis 2:1-3). But how can a religious day in the week make any difference? This special day presses us to examine where we draw our strength from for living life.

The Bible speaks of a universal day of rest ordained by God from the beginning of time (Exodus 20:8-11), to which Christ continues to extend an invitation.

Now the invitation assumes a problem. At present we are alienated from our Creator and are hence missing out on the rest he intended for us. This has been the case since our first parents took the forbidden fruit and launched us down a path of supposed self-sufficiency.

The millennia following Adam and Eve prove this self-willed path has not worked out for us, as is obvious from the perpetual, deep unrest of our world.

Sadly, when we ignore the Sabbath Day of Rest God made for us we not only lose its rich meaning and experience for life—that we can truly rest in God, being sustained and renewed in him (Isaiah 40:28-31)—we end up slave-driving ourselves and each other into exhaustion and depression (Deuteronomy 5:12-15).

Yet, through faith, Sabbath observance can give great hope in our on going struggle with life. In Christ Jesus, the Sabbath Day looks ahead to when God brings humankind and creation into perfection, into his eternal rest and delight (Hebrews 3:1 to 4:16, Revelation 21:1 to 22:5). When the going gets tough the Sabbath keeps us looking ahead to the future hope of the gospel (James 5:7-8).

Lastly, Jesus is the way into the rest of God (Matthew 11:25-30, John 14:1, 6). Thus, we are further reminded of new life every Sabbath Day. This is why the Sabbath shifted from Saturday to Sunday, and is also known as the Lord’s Day, the Christian Sabbath, as it is the day Christ rose from the dead, giving new life and hope to all who trust in him (Romans 6:4, 2 Corinthians 5:17).

Therefore, make the most of the Sabbath Day of Rest for the glory of God and your good! Start with participating in corporate Sunday worship as regularly as you are able. In this way you will be reminded where your true rest is both now and forever.

You are invited.

(See my podcast series for a deeper discussion of the Christian Sabbath.)

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