Reviewing and renewing Biblical faith through story and study

Friday, January 17, 2014

28 Stories - Study 19: Saving Lives

Fundamental: Christ’s Ministry in the Heavenly Sanctuary

Bible Story  

Joseph trembled as Pharaoh used his limitless power to transform a slave into a prince. A few snaps of the royal fingers and the interpreter of dreams was living a dream beyond imagination.
Pharaoh spoke loud enough for everyone to hear, “Since God has revealed the meaning of the dreams to you, clearly no one else is as intelligent or wise as you are. Only I, sitting on my throne, will have a rank higher than yours.”
While only moments before he had been dressed for a dungeon, Joseph now stood attired in Egypt finest-—a silk robe, a gold chain around his neck and the Pharaoh’s own ring of power on his finger.
Pharaoh said, “I hereby put you in charge of the entire land of Egypt. I am Pharaoh, but no one will lift a hand or foot in the entire land of Egypt without your approval.” Just 30 years of age, Joseph was second in command of the most powerful nation on Earth.
Pharaoh gave Joseph an Egyptian name, a beautiful wife, chariots and servants. Wherever Joseph went, men ran ahead of his chariot shouting, “Make way! Bow down!” Anyone who didn’t know Joseph would have said his rise to power was meteoric and undeserved. And Joseph would have agreed with them. But God knew differently. He had been shaping Joseph for this role since he was a boy. Each step along the way—every dream, every pit, every choice—as painful as it may have been, would now reveal itself as truly necessary and perfectly planned.
Joseph began implementing his taxation strategy throughout Egypt. Storehouses were built in all the cities. The people, enjoying seven years of bumper crops, were required to bring one fifth of every harvest to the storehouses. This was not easy, and the farming people, who lived only thinking of today, complained.
But Joseph, remembering the faith of his ancestors, knew that a double tithe—20 per cent—was the fitting response when a time of blessing was upon you. So, he applied an ancient Hebrew truth to his leadership in Egypt and the storehouses filled.
When the seven years of plenty came to an end, Egypt was ready for what was to come. And it came with a vengeance. The land dried up. The fields stopped growing and the desert took over the lush valleys. The Egyptian people came to the Pharaoh and begged for help. “Go to Joseph,” Pharaoh told them. “Do whatever he tells you to do.”
Joseph’s role as stockpiler of crops now changed to distributor of grace. Any animosity in the hearts of the people from the time of overtaxing was replaced by appreciation as they received their crops back, when they needed them most.
The famine spread beyond the borders of Egypt. Surrounding nations ran out of food and hearing of the storehouses in Egypt, they came. Joseph knew if he gave grain to everyone who needed it there would soon be none left. So, he charged a hefty price for foreign sales. And he put the purchasers through a careful process of scrutiny to ensure they weren’t spies or dishonest business men looking to profit from Egypt’s wise planning.
A group of 10 men arrived one miserably hot afternoon, to buy grain. From a distance Joseph recognised them as Hebrews, his people. And when they drew nearer, Joseph recognised each of the ten travel-weary faces. They were his brothers. The brothers who had mocked him and tore off his special coat. The brothers who had thrown him in a pit. The brothers who had sold him to slavers. The cause of all his suffering. And, he realised with a sudden jolt of astonishment, the reason for every morsel of grain in the storehouses of Egypt.
A desperate struggle began between the heart and head of Joseph. His heart wanted to run to his brothers and embrace them—to tell them how their amazing God had provided this blessing for their family. But his head remembered the selfish nature of these men. Would they try to use and abuse Joseph’s place of power in Egypt? Would they take more grain than they needed and sell it to benefit their own pockets? Were they good men or had their nature worsened with the passage of time?
Joseph decided to test them, just as he would anyone else he suspected of foul play. He knew, dressed in his royal finery, and speaking Egyptian, his brothers would never recognise him.
He called them spies. Oh, how it hurt to accuse his own flesh and blood of evil. He yelled at them in Egyptian. He put Simeon in prison while the others went home to get the youngest brother, to prove they were not spies. And when they returned with Benjamin, it was all he could do to control himself. Benjamin! My little brother! He fed them a banquet because of Benjamin. He couldn’t help himself. He amazed them by seating them by age and then gave Benjamin 5 times as much food as the others. Finally, he arranged one last test, this time setting Benjamin up as a thief. How would they respond? Would they throw Benjamin away like they had Joseph all those years before?
The brothers wept and begged Joseph not to imprison Benjamin. They spoke to each other in Hebrew, “What has God done to us? We are being punished for what we did to Joseph!” Judah told Joseph a story. It was about their father and how much he loved Benjamin. He finished, saying, “So please, my lord, let me stay here as a slave instead of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers. For how can I return to my father if the boy is not with me? I couldn’t bear to see the anguish this would cause my father!”
Joseph made every Egyptian leave the room. Then, in Hebrew, he cried, “I am Joseph, your brother! Is my father really still alive?” His brothers were unable to take it in. What did this Egyptian lord just say? Our brother? Joseph? Impossible!
Joseph ran to Benjamin and hugged him. Then he turned to his brothers and repeated, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! Do not be angry at yourselves, I forgive you! It was not you who sent me here, but God. God sent me, to prepare for the famine and to preserve a remnant of our people on earth!”

My Reflection

Imagine you were one of the brothers at the moment of Joseph revealing his true identity. What would it have been like to be Simeon, the oldest brother (who had failed to protect the young Joseph in the pit)?

What would it have been like to be Judah, who was now expecting to be a prisoner in Egypt for the rest of his life?

What would it have been like to be Benjamin?

For a very long time, Joseph believed he was a prisoner in Egypt for one reason—because his brothers were mean. What would have been going through Joseph’s heart and mind when he realised that God had sent him to Egypt as a saviour for his people?

My Story

Can you remember a time when you were forgotten or left behind? Tell the story. What happened? How did you feel? What was it like when you were found or reclaimed?

Do you like surprise parties? Have you ever been truly surprised when someone threw one? Have you ever thrown one for someone else?

To the person being celebrated, a surprise party seems sudden and unexpected. To the person throwing the party, there is a lot of planning and preparation involved. The rest of this study is about the longest preparation and best planned party in the universe. Can you guess what it is? (Hint: the preparation is still going on, right now!)

The party is for you! God has spent over 6000 years getting it “just right.” How does that make you feel?

My Assurance

God has a plan for the salvation of humanity. Jesus’ first coming was part of that plan. Jesus’ second coming is also part of that epic plan. What assurance do you gain from these verses about what Jesus did, is doing and will do for the people of Earth?

Hebrews 1:3 ~ The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven.

Hebrews 9:11, 14, 27-28 ~ So Christ has now become the High Priest over all the good things that have come. He has entered that greater, more perfect Tabernacle in heaven . . . Just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences from sinful deeds so that we can worship the living God. For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. . . . And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, so also Christ died once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him.

Revelation 22:12 ~ Look, I am coming soon, bringing my reward with me to repay all people according to their deeds.

My Commitment

Jesus has seen this world and experienced the worst it has to offer. And He has conquered it! He calls us to follow Him and His ways. What do these verses teach us about the nature of God’s people in the days prior to Jesus’ second coming? How are you challenged to live?

Hebrews 4:14-16 ~ So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

Revelation 14:6-7 ~ And I saw another angel flying through the sky, carrying the eternal Good News to proclaim to the people who belong to this world—to every nation, tribe, language, and people. “Fear God,” he shouted. “Give glory to him. For the time has come when he will sit as judge. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea, and all the springs of water.”

Revelation 14:!2 ~ God’s holy people must endure persecution patiently, obeying his commands and maintaining their faith in Jesus.

My Outlook
God does not want His people to live powerless and broken lives. He offers us access to His great power through the presence of Jesus as our High Priest. This is huge! How do these verses impact the way you see yourself and your place in God’s plan today?

Hebrews 8:1-2 ~ Here is the main point: We have a High Priest who sat down in the place of honor beside the throne of the majestic God in heaven. There he ministers in the heavenly Tabernacle, the true place of worship that was built by the Lord and not by human hands.

Hebrews 10:19-22 ~ And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus.  By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place.  And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him.

My Response

The following statement is the 24th of the 28 fundamental beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Review the doctrine and then write a personal response. What difference does this make to your life?

Christ’s Ministry in the Heavenly Sanctuary

There is a sanctuary in heaven, the true tabernacle which the Lord set up and not man. In it Christ ministers on our behalf, making available to believers the benefits of His atoning sacrifice offered once for all on the cross. He was inaugurated as our great High Priest and began His intercessory ministry at the time of His ascension. In 1844, at the end of the prophetic period of 2300 days, He entered the second and last phase of His atoning ministry. It is a work of investigative judgment which is part of the ultimate disposition of all sin, typified by the cleansing of the ancient Hebrew sanctuary on the Day of Atonement. In that typical service the sanctuary was cleansed with the blood of animal sacrifices, but the heavenly things are purified with the perfect sacrifice of the blood of Jesus. The investigative judgment reveals to heavenly intelligences who among the dead are asleep in Christ and therefore, in Him, are deemed worthy to have part in the first resurrection. It also makes manifest who among the living are abiding in Christ, keeping the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, and in Him, therefore, are ready for translation into His everlasting kingdom. This judgment vindicates the justice of God in saving those who believe in Jesus. It declares that those who have remained loyal to God shall receive the kingdom. The completion of this ministry of Christ will mark the close of human probation before the Second Advent.

Bible Story

The story of Joseph is one of the longest narratives recorded in the Bible. It can be found in Genesis chapters 37, 39-50.

Further Reading

Hebrews 9:11-28, Hebrews 2:16-17, Daniel 7:9-27, Daniel 8:13-14, Daniel 9:24-27, Leviticus 16, Numbers 14:34, Ezekiel 4:6, Revelation 20:12