Bible Readers

With Pastor Dave Roussel

A 20% Flat Tax?

January 16 – Today’s Readings – Genesis 46-48 and Psalms 16

I’m going to divert from my usual style this morning and talk about politics – well not really politics but forms of government. We pride ourselves on our style of government to the point of using it as an excuse to go to war to “help” others see the virtues of democracy. Please don’t misunderstand – democracy is about the best we’ve got, but I quote Sir Winston Churchill who held this view: “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.” In other words it’s the best of the worst.

Where am I really going with this? Well – we are presented with a form of government under “Prime Minister Joseph of Egypt” that is revolutionary and based almost completely on integrity. Joseph actually facilitated a form of government I would call “a benevolent, sovereign, dictatorship”. First he collected 20% “flat tax” on all the grain (income) in Egypt during the seven good years. Then he sold the same grain back to the people during the seven bad years, taking as payment their money, then their livestock and finally all their land – till everything in Egypt belonged to one man – Pharaoh.

Joseph then said to the people – all you have belongs to Pharaoh – however I would like to give you grain to sow the fields with. Please look after the livestock for Pharaoh. At the end of the year you will pay Pharaoh a 20% flat tax on the production of land and beast – The rest will be yours to prosper with.

Wow wouldn’t it be interesting to live under this “Joseph” kind of government (provided that a righteous, loving, almost perfect ruler presided over everything)? Just imagine – no tax on anything except a 20% flat tax for all! I’m in!

As strange as all this may sound, I believe this model is given to us because it is rather like God’s kingdom reigning in us . All we have – all we are – all we shall ever be is surrendered to the Lord Jesus Christ when He takes His proper place in our lives. He then makes us stewards of “His stuff” till we die or till He returns. Either way, we give an account of our stewardship when we meet Him face to face.

What a great government exists in our hearts! He is the absolute monarch – and we are his loving servants and adopted children! This does make us quite a unique people – we don’t live under democracy after all. All hail King Jesus! – King of Kings – Lord of Lords and benevolent, holy dictator of my life.

Questions

1. Please comment on the “benevolent dictatorship” that we Christians live under.

2. It is considered treasonous to acknowledge that you actually belong to a different country when you are already a citizen of a nation. The reason Christians were killed under Caesar was because they boldly declared, “We have no king but Jesus!” Are you prepared to make the same kind of declaration? Please comment.

God’s Timetable

January 15 – Today’s Readings – Genesis 43-45 and Psalms 15

It’s a marvel to me that “God’s timetable” is constantly at work in our lives. In these chapters we see Joseph’s boyhood dreams coming to pass many years down the road when his brothers came and bowed down to him. These chapters also give a great “birds eye view” of how God allowed circumstances to unfold in order to bring these brothers to a place of repentance and accountability. It’s almost as though God “conspired” to get their attention.

Chapter 45: 7-8 reads; “But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then it was not you who sent me here, but God”

Amazing isn’t it? – That Joseph could have such a Godly perspective as to perceive God’s sovereign hand in all the difficulties he had faced – and to see all his days of suffering as having a “higher purpose”. We could all use more of this kind of perspective. All of us need to see the sovereignty of God in our difficult places in life. We won’t always understand what’s going on during times of trouble, Joseph certainly didn’t, but we can be assured that our Father does know what’s happening and has His hand upon us through it all. This is what keeps our attitudes and faith strong in the middle of a storm – this is how Job was able to say, “though He slay me yet will I trust Him”. [Job 13:15]

Let’s have a quick look at one more theme today. Chapter 45: 27 reads; “But when they told him (Jacob) everything Joseph had said to them, and when he saw the carts Joseph had sent to carry him back, the spirit of their father Jacob revived.” I personally believe that our mindset determines whether our “spirit man” does well or whether we begin to drift into “dying mode”. What does it mean that Jacob’s spirit “revived”? Simply this – he determined to live a bit longer – 17 more years to be exact. When our spirit is alive and revived, we live! When we say “Father into your hands I commit my spirit”, we breath our last breath and die. (Luke 23:46) God so designed us that if we are encouraged in our outlook and we “see” the things we have to live for, our bodies will respond and shift into health mode. Have you ever heard of a person “hanging on” till all the visitors have left before dying? This has everything to do with the incredible power of the human spirit and God’s Spirit working together.

Walking with Jesus means you will always have many positive things to think about. Good health follows this kind of outlook. If you want to walk in health then walk with Jesus – you will have a personal “attitude instructor” resident within you!

Questions:

1. Is there something that God has given you to “dream” about but it seems a long time coming? Name it and let this dream motivate you to become all God wants you to be.

2. Can you think of an example where a person’s “spirit revived” and they lived on beyond all expectation?

All Within 24 Hours

January 14 – Today’s Reading – Genesis 40-42 And Psalms 14

I was so impressed that in one 24-hour period of time, things could change so dramatically for an individual! The person of whom we speak is Joseph and the 24-hour time block started when Pharaoh received his dream and couldn’t find an interpreter for it. Pharaoh’s Cup Bearer remembered Joseph’s spiritual gifts and before he knew it, the “prisoner” was transformed from scrubby rags in a rat infested prison to a royally dressed, Egyptian-looking ruler of the greatest nation in the then-known world! He won the lottery! His ship came in! – Or did it?

When did Joseph’s “fortune” actually change? When did he really become a powerful man? Wasn’t it years before when he decided to serve the Lord whether he was the slave of Potiphar or a prisoner in the dungeon? I think of all the dungeon-like situations we get ourselves into (sometimes through no fault of our own) and how God can change those circumstances in our lives. In a single day God can change – and will change your future – but that day is when you are sitting in the dungeon and decide to serve God anyway! The outcome of the decision you make in the pit will lead to great deliverance in your life and your descendants for generations to come.

Great victory is the natural outcome of deciding to do things God’s way. The results may not be as dramatic as in Joseph’s situation – (usually things happen a little at a time) – but in large part, most of us can identify a turning point were God changed our lives.

One more thought for you – when God changes you, He will also begin to work on those around you. In Joseph’s case, God began immediately to “speak to” Joseph’s brothers. He used this humble leader to confront the sin in his brother’s lives. The beginning of deliverance in their lives was when they were forced to ask their brother for grain. They had to bow down to the one they swore they would never bow down to.

God brought them down so that He could lift them up. The only way they could save their families was to once again do things God’s way. The righteous man (Joseph) stood tall in the midst of them and brought them all back under the covering of the Almighty. Keep praying for your loved ones. God is fixing a plan to fix them!

Questions:

1. Are you in some kind of captivity – a pit – a dungeon – in slavery?

2. If the answer is yes – is there a reason God has you there?

3. What attitude is God asking of you in the middle of your trial or dungeon-place?

God Uses Even Rotten Situations

January 13 – Today’s Readings – Genesis 37-39 – and Psalms 13

I was wondering how things would have worked out for Joseph if his father had not favoured him more than his brothers – if Joseph had not repeated his dreams to his brothers and father – if his father had not always kept him at home, only sending him out to “spy” on his brothers or to do special missions for him. It’s unwise and unfair parenting to give such preferential treatment to one child over the others based on petty issues. Bad parenting made things more than a little tense in Jacob’s family – especially between Joseph and his brothers. We know the outcome of the story – how Joseph saved the family from starvation and provided them a place of shelter in Egypt. The question is whether God would have accomplished His will in Joseph’s life if the family had not been such a mess. I’m wondering whether all of Joseph’s intense suffering was really God’s explicit plan or whether “life happened” and God used very rotten circumstances and “worked them together for good” despite – his brothers – his father – his owner Potiphar – Potiphar’s lustful wife and the jailer. The answer, of course, is that God certainly would have accomplished His plan for Joseph had things been different, but he worked His will out for Joseph despite the family dynamics.

Suffering for no apparent reason is one of the great mysteries of life – we will be able to ask Jesus (and Joseph) about this and many other issues when we get to meet them. My suggestion to you in the mean time is to not be constantly asking the “Why God” question – it will only lead to frustration in your faith. Certain things we experience are mysteries and should be left that way.

The important thing to remember as we walk along this sometimes trouble-filled journey is to keep ourselves in the love of God – in the centre of His care for us. When troubles come, we need Him to walk with us through the valley. We can’t afford to become bitter towards Him and lose faith in the fact that He truly is with us. These “nasties” we sometimes face are only part of the sinful world we live in. Somehow Joseph got it right and was able stay sweet and in the love of God while living through his troubles. Through great examples like Joseph we too have learned the secret of being thankful to the Lord in all circumstances in life. Note that Scripture says “in” every circumstance but it does not mean “for” every circumstance. (1 Thessalonians 5:18) The lessons Joseph learned are the same lessons we have to learn in order to be successful in life – don’t get bitter, get better.

Questions:

1. Please comment on a situation in your life where you had to be thankful even though things were not going in your favour.

2. How do you think Joseph managed to “stay sweet”?

Patriarchs With Faults

January 12 – Today’s Readings – Genesis 34-36 and Psalms 12

The more I read about the “Patriarchs” the more I realize how God chose these people despite their messed up their lives. We find Abraham and his son Isaac both lying about who their wives were in order to save their own skins (Genesis 26:7 and Genesis 20:1-3) – Jacob’s sons Simeon and Levi slaughtering all the men of an entire city (Genesis 34:25) – Jacob’s son, Reuben sleeping with his father’s wife (Genesis 35:21) – how weird is that! It’s so easy for us to look back on history and ask, “What were these men of God thinking”?

Before we judge these guys too severely however, remember that they didn’t have the benefit of the abiding presence of The Holy Spirit. The reality they lived was different than ours but the revelation of God they did possess was earth-shattering for their time.

They saw God as alive – as one who spoke to them – as one who wanted to bless them. This was in stark contrast to all the nations who worshiped gods of wood and stone.

Hebrews 7: 22 says we have a “better covenant” because Jesus came to adopt us as sons and daughters of God. The patriarchs would have been speechless at the revelation we have now, but especially at the intimacy we enjoy with God. These people lacked both insight and anointing and lived with very little knowledge of the Lord. They knew God as if they were observing Him through a veil. It’s no wonder Jesus had to come. The Patriarchs had little revelation about God’s true nature and character.

We can do better than the ancients. We have a better revelation – we have a personal loving Saviour who has specifically instructed us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. We have a compassionate Father who has told us to go into all the world and preach the Good News to all creation. We have been given the garment of salvation and the robe of righteousness. The Holy Spirit lives in us and gives us power to live righteously. I can only imagine what Abraham would have done had he known Jesus as we do. The truth is that he saw only types and shadows and we have seen God Almighty in the face of Jesus Christ. It’s true – the Patriarchs walked by faith and in the revelation they had been given but I wonder what they would think of us and our lifestyles knowing the immense revelation we have been blessed with in Jesus.

Questions:

1. If the patriarchs had so many “issues” in their lives, what set them apart as God’s special men and women?

2. What are some primary differences between the faith that the Old Testament patriarchs had and the faith that we have?

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