Genesis speaks of the beginning. Matthew speaks of a new beginning. The God who created us is the God who has provided for our salvation. If we are to enjoy God’s salvation, we must learn to follow the wisdom of Psalm 1:1-2 – “Blessed is the one … whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on His law day and night.”
If there is to be delight in God’s Word, we must overcome doubt. Satan is always saying, “Did God really say …?” (Genesis 3:1). We must learn to say, “God did say” (Genesis 3:3). We must stand by this confession of faith in God and His Word. Satan will not give in easily. He will try to talk us out of believing God’s Word. Satan will try to confuse us by speaking in a “spiritual” way. We must, however, be clear about Satan’s purpose. He is seeking to undermine God’s purpose. If he thinks he can achieve this purpose, he will speak about “God” (Genesis 3:5). It will seem that he is interpreting God’s Word. He is seeking to lead us away from God. He’s seeking to undermine our faith and obedience so that we will go “out from the presence of the Lord” (Genesis 4:16).
There is a better way. It’s the way of the wise men – “We … have come to worship Him” (Matthew 2:2). Worshipping the Lord, we are to delight in His Word. True wisdom is grounded in God’s Word (Matthew 2:5-6). Satan seeks to undermine our faith in the Lord’s Word. Speaking through Herod, he expresses this desire to “worship Christ” (Matthew 2:8). Satan is a liar. However much he may speak about God, he has no intention of worshipping Him. The truth about Satan is this: ”The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” It is Jesus who gives “abundant life” (John 10:10). Satan’s purpose of death is seen in Herod’s plan “to search for the child to kill Him” (Matthew 2:13). God’s purpose was not thwarted. God’s purpose is life. This life is in Christ.
Our Lord Jesus Christ is the One concerning whom God says, “You are My Son” (Psalm 2:7). He is the One to whom God says, ”I will make the nations Your inheritance, the ends of the earth Your possession” (Psalm 2:8). God speaks to us concerning His Son – “Kiss His Son, or He will be angry and your way will lead to your destruction, for His wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in Him” (Psalm 2:12). To go the way of the Son is to go the way of life. To reject Him is to go the way of death. Go the way of the Son. Take delight in Him – “Kiss the Son.” Those who delight in the Son of God will also delight in the Word of God. The written Word of God – Scripture – leads us to the living Word of God – our Lord Jesus Christ.
Among many names and life-spans, there is this remarkable statement: “Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away” (Genesis 5:24). This closeness to God develops as we learn to delight in the Word of God. Together with “Noah” who “found favour in the eyes of the Lord” (Genesis 6:8), Enoch stands in stark contrast to the general tenor of human life at the time – ”how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth … every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time” (Genesis 6:5). The story of good and evil, God and the devil, is highlighted in the story of Jesus and Herod. Concerning Herod, we read this – “those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead” (Matthew 2:20). Herod is dead. God remains the living God. The human situation is described in Psalm 3:1 – “Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me!” There is, however, something else we must never forget – “From the Lord comes deliverance” (Psalm 3:8).
In the story of the flood, we read of the covenant made with Noah. As we move into the story of Jesus, we come into the realm of the new covenant. God was doing a new thing, something greater than anything that ever happened under the old covenant. At the outset of Jesus’ ministry, the devil made another attempt to undermine the work of God. He tried to distract Jesus from His mission. His methods bear a striking similarity to those used in the Garden of Eden. He tries to sow seeds of doubt – “If you are the Son of God …” (Matthew 4:3,6). Quoting Scripture (Matthew 4:6), he gives the appearance of spirituality. Satan’s goal becomes clear in the third temptation. He wants Jesus to “bow down and worship” him (Matthew 4:9). Satan is defeated. Jesus is victorious. This victory can be ours as we grasp the truth: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7), as we learn, when tempted by Satan, to say, with Jesus, “It is written” (Matthew 4:4,7,10).
God made a new beginning with Noah and his family. It doesn’t take us long to spoil God’s good work, With no concern for God’s glory, we say, “let us … make a name for ourselves” (Genesis 11:4). God’s response to this situation was Jesus Christ. He is the Man who sought only to give glory to God. Christ was God’s response to our sin – “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). He was also God’s response to the prayers of believing people who longed for a Saviour. In Psalm 4:1, the Psalmist prays, “Answer me when I call to You, my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer.” Jesus Christ is God’s Answer to this prayer. Christ brings relief (salvation). This salvation arises from the mercy of God. In this salvation, we have a “joy” and “peace” (Psalm 4:7-8) which the world cannot give. Only God can give this joy and peace to us.
God is doing a work of grace. This becomes clear in the promise given to Abram (Genesis 12:1-3). Satan is still very active in the world – “Now the people of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the Lord” (Genesis 13:13). This is a situation which causes great distress to the people of God – “Listen to my words, Lord, consider my lament. Hear my cry for help, my King and my God, for to You I pray” (Psalm 5:1-2). When the Bible speaks about sin, we’re not to point the finger at other people. This is about us. We’re all sinners (Romans 3:23). The standards of God’s holiness are beyond us – “You are not a God who is pleased with wickedness: evil shall not dwell with You” (Psalm 5:4). When we read the deeply challenging analysis of God’s law, given by Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount, we become deeply conscious of our sin. Thank God – His Word does not only speak of His perfect holiness. It also speaks of His great love – ”I, by Your great love, can come into Your house” (Psalm 5:7).
In Genesis 14:18-20, we read about the remarkable appearance of the mysterious figure, Melchizedek. Here, we have the first suggestion of tithing – “Then Abram gave Him a tenth of everything” (Genesis 14:20). This is not a legalistic practice. It is set in the context of grace and worship. Abram’s tithing follows on from this: “Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine” (Genesis 14:18). In view of what we read, in Hebrews 7, about Melchizedek and our Lord Jesus Christ, it is appropriate that we should think about tithing in the context of our response to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, whose body was broken for us and blood was shed for us. Tithing is set within the context of worship. It is a part of our worship. In this act of worship, we are saying, “blessed be God Most High” (Genesis 14:20). Within this context of worship, there is blessing – “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth” (Genesis 14:19). Those who have been blessed by the Lord consider it their privilege to bring their tithes to the Lord. The blessing of God upon Abram is to increase greatly. The promise reaches its fulfilment in Jesus Christ – “Count the stars—if indeed you can count them … So shall your offspring be” (Genesis 15:5). Through Jesus Christ, there is salvation for ”a great multitude, which no man could number” (Revelation 7:9).
Abram “believed in the Lord; and He counted it to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6) – This is faith, receiving salvation as God’s gift. Unfortunately, Abram’s faith was not constant. He listened to Sarai’s suggestion: ”Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her” (Genesis 16:2). This led to the birth of Ishmael. It also led to thirteen years of silence from God’s side: “Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael. When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him” (Genesis 16:16-17:1).
In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, we have teaching which links up well with the teaching regarding tithing in Genesis 14: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth … store up for yourselves treasures in heaven … You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:19-20,24). Tithing is not merely a mechanical thing. It’s part of a lifestyle, governed by heavenly priorities. If we are to make sense of life in this world, we must keep heaven in view. No matter what our circumstances may be, we must believe that the wise man builds on Christ – “The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer” – and the way of the fool will come to nothing – ”All my enemies will be overwhelmed with shame and anguish; they will turn back and suddenly be put to shame” (Psalm 6:9-10).
Following Abram’s rash action of fathering a child, Ishmael, by his maidservant, Hagar, we see, in Genesis 17, God’s determination to bless him and to make him a blessing to many people. God will not be put off by our objections (Genesis 17:15-19). To such objections, He gives this answer: “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Genesis 18:14). Despite God’s plan to send blessing, there are still many hindrances. The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were such hindrances to God’s purpose: “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous” (Genesis 18:20). Time and again, God held back His judgment. Still, the sin continued, and the judgment was coming. Even in the face of judgment, we must take great encouragement from the patience of God – “For the sake of ten, I will not destroy it” (Genesis 18:32). God is looking for the remnant of faith. Out of such small beginnings, great blessing can come. Only a few were found faithful. They did not seem to be very significant. It was through this small band of faithful people that God carried forward His plan of salvation.
God’s plan of salvation reaches its fulfilment in our Saviour, Jesus Christ. In His teaching, as in the teaching of Genesis 17-18, there is both salvation and judgment. Some will be saved. Many will be lost (Matthew 7:13-14,21-23). If we are to be saved, we must follow the wisdom of the Proverbs – ”Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching” (Proverbs 1:8). Above all, we must follow the “Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing”, the living Word – our Lord Jesus Christ. Satan is seeking to destroy us – “let’s swallow them alive, like the grave” (Proverbs 1:12). To “go along with” those who do not honour the Lord Jesus Christ is to “rush into sin” (Proverbs 1:15-16). To live by faith in Christ is “to be kept by the power of God for full salvation” (1 Peter 1:5).
Genesis 19 is a chapter that’s full of the darkness of sin. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is followed by the sordid episode with Lot and his daughters. Sin leads to judgment. That’s the lesson of Sodom and Gomorrah. sin leads to judgment. we see this in the birth of these two illicitly conceived children – “the father of the Moabites” and “the father of the Ammonites” (Genesis 19:37-38). To follow the pathway of sin is to walk in the way of the fool. It’s to build on sand. It’s better to build on the Rock, which is Jesus Christ (Matthew 7:24-27).
As we read of Jesus’ teaching along with the stories of Genesis, we see the continuity of God’s work of salvation. This is summed up in the words of Jesus: “many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 8:11). In Genesis, there’s a message of judgment. We see this also in Jesus’ teaching – ”the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:12).
There is judgment – “Arise, Lord, in Your anger; rise up against the rage of my enemies” (Psalm 7:6). Thank God – there is also salvation – we cry to “the righteous God”, “Make the righteous secure.” He hears and answers our prayer. He gives us this great testimony: “My shield is God Most High, who saves the upright in heart” (Psalm 7:10).
As we read of the testing of Abraham in regard to God’s call for Isaac to be sacrificed, we have a hint of God’s provision of Jesus Christ as the Saviour who was sacrificed for the sins of the world. By faith, Abraham says, “God himself will provide the lamb … ” (Genesis 2:8). “Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided” (Genesis 22:14). The events on Mount Moriah point forward to the greater Event on Mount Calvary – the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, our Saviour, who died not for the sins of Abraham only “but for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2).
As Matthew speaks of Jesus Christ, he gives his personal testimony. He doesn’t draw attention to himself. He simply tells us that Jesus said, “Follow Me … and Matthew got up and followed Him” (Matthew 9:9). As we consider the Saviour whom God has given to us, our Lord Jesus Christ who calls us to follow Him, may we learn to say, with the Psalmist – ”I will give thanks to the Lord because of His righteousness; I will sing the praises of the Name of the Lord Most High” (Psalm 7:17).
In Genesis 24, we see the progress of the promise given to Abraham. From generation to generation, God is fulfilling His purpose. Once Rebekkah had agreed to marry Isaac, she received this blessing: “Our sister, may you increase to thousands upon thousands; may your offspring possess the cities of their enemies” (Genesis 24:60). This is clearly referring to the long-term fulfilment of God’s promise to Abraham. It was fitting that God’s purpose should be carried forward through Isaac. He was a godly man – “He went out to the field one evening to meditate” (Genesis 24:63). If we want to live a godly life, we must learn to spend time with God.
Following on from the love story of Isaac and Rebekkah, we find Jesus, in Matthew 9:15, speaking of Himself as “the bridegroom” who has come to find a bride for Himself. From a story of human love to the Story of “love divine, all loves excelling, joy of heaven to earth come down”, we turn our hearts to worship – “Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8:9).
The purpose of God moves on with the birth of Jacob and Esau. We are told that “the older (Esau) will serve the younger (Jacob)” (Genesis 25:23). The purpose of God reaches its fulfilment in the coming of Jesus Christ. In Christ, God’s purpose is fulfilled. The work of God continues as Christ’s apostles carry forward the Gospel’s advance in the world.
Matthew 10 tells of the disciples being trained for their later work of being Christ’s witnesses in the world (Acts 1:8).
Proverbs 1:20-21 – “Out in the open wisdom calls aloud, she raises her voice in the public square; on top of the wall she cries out, at the city gate she makes her speech.” The Gospel is not to be kept to ourselves. Christ is to be proclaimed.
As we see the progress of the divine promise through the line of Jacob, we also see that Esau married into Ishmael’s side of the family (Genesis 28:8-9). The tremendous experience, given by God to Jacob (Genesis 28:10-22) was one of the great turning-points in Jacob’s life (see also Genesis 32:22-23). It was on that night that he became a new man. The story of Jacob became a story of blessing, a story of a man being led by the Lord Himself on “a stairway … reaching to heaven” (Genesis 28:12).
Jesus said, ”Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of Me” (Matthew 11:6). The story of Esau became a story of an increasing falling away from the Lord. The story of God’s enemies is summed up in Psalm 9:3 – “My enemies turn back; they stumble and perish before You.” The testimony of the saved is summed up in Psalm 9:1-2 – “I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing the praises of Your name, O Most High.”
In Genesis 29-30, we read of many births. The significant birth, in terms of God’s purpose of redemption, is the birth of Joseph (Genesis 30:22-24). There is, of course, another Joseph in Scripture – Joseph, the husband of Mary, the mother of Jesus. The birth of Jesus was a mighty miracle. Jesus was the Son of God. He had a special relationship to God the Father – “no one knows the Father except the Son” (Matthew 11:27). To whom does the Son choose to reveal the Father? – He reveals the Father to those who respond to His gracious invitation – ”Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). To those who come to Jesus Christ, God’s promise is given: “Those who know Your name trust in You, for You, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek You” (Psalm 9:10).
Criticism of Jacob by Laban (Genesis 31), criticism of Jesus by the Pharisees (the criticism of the disciples is implicitly a criticism of Jesus – Matthew 12:1-2), criticism of the Psalmist (“O Lord, see how my enemies persecute me!” – Psalm 9:13) – criticism is directed against the Lord’s people in every generation. Whatever criticism there may be, we must learn to hear, with faith, the Word of the Lord – “Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight” (Matthew 12:18). These words are, supremely, true of Jesus. Nevertheless, they are also true of Jacob who took his place in the ongoing purpose of God, David who “declared God’s praises … and rejoiced in His salvation” (Psalm 9:14) and ourselves who have been saved by His grace. In our conflict with evil, we must take our problem to the Lord, praying, with the Psalmist – “Arise, O Lord, let not man triumph” (Psalm 9:19).
In Genesis 28:10-22, we read about a turning-point in Jacob’s life. Here, in Genesis 32:22-32, we have another turning-point. It’s summed up 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.” Jacob may “have overcome”, but there is no-one who has overcome so mightily as our Lord Jesus Christ. He “drove out demons by the Spirit of God” and, in Him, we are overcomers – ”They triumphed over him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony” (Revelation 12:11). Victory comes from the Lord – “He holds victory in store for the upright” (Proverbs 2:7). He is our “shield”; He “guards” and “protects” us in the heat of the battle (Proverbs 2:7-8). As we walk in the pathway of victory, we are led in “every good path” (Proverbs 2:9). We are led in a way which, the Lord says, “will be pleasant to your soul” (Proverbs 2:10).
We have read about two times of blessing in Jacob’s life (Genesis 28:10-22; Genesis 32:22-32). Here’s a third time when the Lord blessed him (Genesis 35:9-12). The Lord’s blessing doesn’t come only once. He blesses His people again and again. He leads us on to a closer walk with Himself. The blessing of God doesn’t pass automatically from one generation to another. Isaac had been blessed by God. Esau turned away from God. He missed out on God’s blessing. The blessing of God is not to be taken for granted.
When Joseph spoke of his dream, “his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind” (Genesis 37:11). Jacob was becoming aware that Joseph was the man whom God had chosen to carry the purpose of God forward into the next generation. Joseph’s dreams had been given to him by the Lord. God was indicating to him the “new thing” (Isaiah 43:19) that He was about to do. God spoke to Joseph through dreams. God spoke through Jesus in parables (Matthew 13). Whether we’re reading about Joseph’s dream concerning God’s continuing purpose or Jesus’ parables of the Kingdom, we must remember this: “The Lord is King for ever and ever” (Psalm 10:16).
Jacob “struggled with God” before he was “blessed” by God (Genesis 32:28-29). The blessing of God comes to us as we live in obedience to Him – “whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:50). When the Word of God comes to us, Jesus says to us, “He who has ears, let him hear” (Matthew 13:10). As we receive God’s Word in obedient faith, our knowledge of God increases. As we get to know Him better, we desire to Him in even greater depth – “Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance” (Matthew 13:12). There is, however, also a warning – “Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him” (Matthew 13:12). To despise the blessing of God, like Esau did, is to become like “the wicked man”, described in Psalm 10:1-11.
What a contrast there is between the unrestrained lust of Judah (Genesis 38) and the sexual restraint of Joseph – “How then can I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9). Joseph was unjustly treated, and put in prison. Nevertheless, God’s purpose was not hindered – “the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did” (Genesis 39:23). When we read of Joseph, being thrown into slavery and, later on, into prison, we see the similarity to Jesus – “Only in his home town and in his own house is a prophet without honour” (Matthew 13:57). Whenever things are going badly (Joseph in prison, Jesus – “a prophet without honour”), we must remember – “The Lord is in His holy temple; the Lord is on His heavenly throne” (Psalm 11:4). We must learn to say, “In the Lord, I take refuge” (Psalm 11:1). We must rest in this assurance: “upright men will see His face” (Psalm 11:7).
Joseph was the forgotten man. He asked the chief cup bearer to remember him (Genesis 40:14). The chief cup bearer forgot Joseph (Genesis 40:23). He wasn’t remembered until “two full years had passed” (Genesis 41:1). As he languished in prison, these two years must have seemed a very long time. Nevertheless, Joseph kept close to God, and when the time came for him to speak for God, he was ready. Joseph didn’t seek glory for himself – “I cannot do it.” He gave all the glory to God – “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires” (Genesis 41:16). John the Baptist was also imprisoned (Matthew 14:3). For John, unlike Joseph, there was to be no release. Whatever our circumstances, we must seek to honour God. The important thing is not the outcome of our adverse circumstances. It’s our faithfulness in these difficult times. Whatever is happening to us, we must remain in “the straight paths” and must not “walk in dark ways” (Proverbs 2:13).
We may see a parallel between Joseph and “the twelve” (his eleven brothers and his father, Jacob) and Jesus and “the twelve” (His disciples). Joseph is leading them into a situation of testing. His long-term intention is to show them that He loves them. Jesus comes to “the twelve” in their time of testing. He shows them that He loves them. Joseph reveals his identity to his family brothers. Jesus reveals His identity – “those who were in the boat worshipped Him, saying, ‘Truly You are the Son of God’” (Matthew 14:33). In Psalm 12:7, we have the great declaration of faith – “You, Lord, will keep the needy safe and will protect us forever from the wicked.” In both stories – Joseph and Jesus, we see the salvation and protection of God. In Genesis 50:20, we read of God’s purpose in the events of the Joseph story – “the saving of many lives.” In the story of “Jesus … walking on the lake”, the “terrified” disciples became worshipping disciples (Matthew 14:25-26,33). This is what God’s salvation does in our lives.
We noted a parallel between Joseph and Jesus – the time of testing for Joseph’s family and Jesus’ disciples and the revelation of love coming to them from Joseph and Jesus. Here, we note another parallel between Joseph and Jesus. Joseph gives food to his own family and also to the whole land of Egypt. Jesus gives food to His own disciples and also to a great multitude – “four thousand, besides women and children” (Matthew 15:38). There is an important principle here – the Bread of Life is not only for the Church. It’s also for the world, the multitudes who are hungry for the spiritual food which only Christ can give to them. To hunger for the presence of the Lord, while feeling that He is far away, is a painful thing. This was the experience of the Psalmist in Psalm 13:1. He was facing very difficult circumstances. His enemies were saying, “I have overcome him.” His foes were rejoicing when he fell (Psalm 13:2,4). Despite all of this, he continued to trust in the Lord. He kept on rejoicing in the Lord. He kept on singing praise to the Lord,. He kept on giving thanks to God for His goodness (Psalm 13:5-6).
Joseph makes himself known to his brothers: “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt!” (Genesis 45:4). Jesus makes Himself known to His disciples (Matthew 16:13-17). In Joseph’s self-identification, there is a statement about why God had sent him into Egypt – “it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you … God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance” (Genesis 45:5,7). Jesus was sent by God to call out the “Church” by an even greater deliverance – deliverance from “the gates of hell” (Matthew 16:18). Joseph said, “God has made me lord of all Egypt” (Genesis 45:8). Concerning Jesus, Scripture declares that God has made Him Lord of all – He has “the keys of the Kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 16:19). The words, spoken by Joseph’s brothers to their father, Jacob, bring out another connection with Jesus. “Joseph is still alive! In fact, he is ruler of all Egypt” (Genesis 45:26). Jesus is alive and He rules over all. He is the risen and reigning Christ. The connection between the story of Jacob (or Israel) and the Gospel of Jesus Christ is highlighted in Psalm 14:7. The Old Testament longs for the coming of the Saviour – “Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!” It looks forward to a time of rejoicing, a time of gladness – “When the Lord restores the fortunes of His people, let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!”
In Genesis and Matthew, we see Jacob and Joseph looking to the future. It is to be a future of blessing. For both, death was near. the future, however, was life. In Jacob’s time, the expectation concerned an earthly land – “God will be with you and take you back to the land of your fathers” (Genesis 48:21). In Christ, our expectation concerns a heavenly land – “the Son of Man is going to come in His Father’s glory with His angels, and then He will reward each person according to what they have done” (Matthew 16:27). In Proverbs 3:1-2, we read, “My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you peace and prosperity.” While earthly prosperity is a gift of God for which we must be grateful, the greatest gift of God is heavenly – “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
In Genesis 49, we read of Jacob’s blessings on his sons. In Matthew 18:1-4, we read of the disciples asking Jesus, “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?” Jesus replied to them, “whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.” In the Kingdom of heaven, the glory doesn’t belong to man. It belongs to the Lord. It’s not about man’s greatness. In the Kingdom of heaven, we see the greatness of God – “Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise” (Psalm 145:3). Our worship is to be expressed in our lives as well as our words – “ Lord, who may dwell in Your sanctuary? … The one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous … Whoever does these things will never be shaken” (Psalm 15:1-2,5).
In the life of faith, we will face many difficulties. For Job, there was great suffering. For Jesus’ disciples, there was the pain of loss when Jesus was taken from them. For all of God’s people, there is something better still to come: “You will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand” (Psalm 16:11). We must not look only at the things that are happening now. We must look also at the glory which is yet to come.
Bereavement, hardship, divorce – the Word of God speaks of these difficulties in Job and in the words of Jesus. These things can bring on deep depression. We see this in Job’s reaction to his bereavement and hardship. In such circumstances, we must take our thoughts to the Lord, even if, as in the case of Job, the pouring out of the soul to the Lord doesn’t seem to be a very positive thing. It is to the Lord that we cry. When we do this, we keep open our lifeline to Him. He will renew our strength. He will lift us out of our trouble. Whatever trouble we face, we must learn to say, with the Psalmist: ”Hear, O Lord, my righteous plea; listen to my cry. Give ear to my prayer … ” (Psalm 17:1).
When we face difficult circumstances, as Job did and as the Lord’s disciples did (Matthew 19:29), we must never forget that the Lord’s purpose is good and His long-term goal is our good – “eternal life” (Matthew 19:29). What is to be our attitude to suffering? – “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in” (Proverbs 3:11-12). Whether our suffering arises from unfavourable circumstances or human hostility, we must never doubt that all of these things are under the control of God and are used by Him to make us more obedient to Him and more pleasing to Him.
Jesus’ parable of the workers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16) teaches us that all that we have, apart from our sin, is received from God as a gift of His grace. We must remember this when, like Job, we are going through hard times. We don’t have the right to expect everything to be going great all the time. When we are enjoying the Lord’s blessing, we must never forget that this is not something we have earned. It’s the blessing of His grace, the blessing which has been given to us by the Lord. The more we come to know His blessing, the more we will have confidence to say, “I call on You, O God, for You will answer me” (Psalm 17:6).
God doesn’t abandon us when we’re suffering. When Jesus asked His disciples, ”Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” (Matthew 20:22), He was teaching them that there would be suffering. There’s a great difference between the way in which worldly people and godly people react to suffering. ”Men of this world whose reward is in this life” (Psalm 17:14) don’t see any eternal purpose in suffering. The believer looks beyond the suffering to the glory which is yet to come: “And I, in righteousness, I shall see Your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing Your likeness” (Psalm 17:15).
Among Job’s many words of anguish, there are these tremendous words – “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end H will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see Him with my own eyes – I, and not another” (Job 19:25-27). We must not lose patience. Before Jesus was raised, He went to the Cross. The Psalmist had this testimony – “I call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies” (Psalm 18:3). This great testimony did not come easily – “The cords of death entangled me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me” (Psalm 18:4-5). For us, as for Jesus, out of death comes resurrection.