Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost: Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28; Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22, 45b or 1 Kings 19:9-18; Psalm 85:8-13; Romans 10:5-15; Matthew 14:22-33
Strengthened by the Lord, we are led in the way of victory.
In the story of Joseph, we see human sin and divine grace.
We see jealousy (Genesis 37:11) and its effects: ‘where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice’ (James 3:16).
We see God working out His purpose: ‘you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good’ (Genesis 50:20).
In his dreams, Joseph was given a glimpse of the ‘new thing’ (Isaiah 43:19) God was about to do. Joseph’s situation seemed hopeless: ‘cast… into a pit’, ‘sold’ into slavery (Genesis 37:24, 28). God was in this situation.
Each of us is in a ‘pit’, but we are not alone. Jesus has gone into the ‘pit’for us, and He has come out of it victorious: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your sting? O grave where is your victory?’ Slaves of Satan, we have been set free by Christ (Romans 6:17-18; Hebrews 2:14-15).
God was with Joseph. He is with us.
Strengthened by the Lord, we rejoice in Him.
‘Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always. Remember the wonderful works that He has done…’ (Psalm 105:4-5). The Lord gives strength to those who put their trust in Him. Trusting in Christ, we have this great testimony: ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’ (Philippians 4:13). How do we receive the Lord’s strength? We must ‘seek His face always. We must not think we can face difficult circumstances in our strength. Without the strength of the Lord, we will be defeated. He has helped us in the past. Never forget this. Give thanks to Him for every victory won. As you face temptation, remember the Lord’s promise of victory: ‘God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your strength. With the temptation, He will also provide the way of escape…’ (1 Corinthians 10:13).
‘He brought His people out with joy’ (Psalm 105:43). When things are going badly and we feel like giving up, we must remember the Word of the Lord: ‘The joy of the Lord is your strength’ (Nehemiah 8:10). We are to ‘rejoice in the Lord always’. The Lord does not leave us on our own when our time of testing comes. He is there for us in our time of need: ‘My God will supply every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 4:4, 19). When we are deeply conscious of our own weakness, the Lord comes to us with His Word of strength: ‘My grace is sufficient for you. My power is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Corinthians 12:9). Through the Word of God, we receive strength. His Word brings joy to us. Let us sing ‘glad songs of victory’: ‘The Lord is my Strength, my Song, my Saviour’ (118:14-15).
Strengthened by the Lord, we trust in His unchanging love.
Life is full of ups and downs. For Elijah, there was a very high point. He prayed. ‘The fire of the Lord fell’. ‘All the people said, ‘The Lord, He is God’’ (1 Kings 18:37-39). This was followed by a very low point: ‘O Lord, take away my life’ (1 Kings 19:4). We are so changeable. Often, we feel like we are being torn apart. Our emotions pull us in different directions. Sometimes, we are full of joy. At other times, we are at the point of despair. We find ourselves in a turmoil of confused emotions. What are we to do? Are we to ‘pull ourselves together’? This seems to be the very thing we can’t manage to do. Are we to ‘hope for the best’- ‘Some day, some way, things will get better’? We think about this, and we wonder, ‘What happens if things get worse?’! Look to the Lord. His love is unchanged, unchanging and unchangeable.
Strengthened by the Lord, we pray, “Send a revival. Start the work in me.”
We are to pray for revival – ‘Restore us again, O God our Saviour… Will You not revive us again that Your people may rejoice in You?’ (Psalm 85:4, 6). We are to pray that God will ‘grant us His salvation’. We are to pray that ‘His saving presence will remain in our land’. We must pray that ‘His glory may dwell in our land’ (Psalm 85:7, 9). We are to pray for real listening – ‘I will listen to what God the Lord will say’- , a real turning to the Lord – ‘turning to Him in our hearts’- , and a real sense of His blessing – ‘He will speak peace to His people’ (Psalm 85:8). Prayer for revival does not begin as a prayer for others. It begins with ourselves: ‘O Holy Ghost, revival comes from Thee; send a revival – start the work in me’. It begins with this prayer: “Lord, take my life, and make it wholly Thine; fill my poor heart with Thy great love divine’ (Mission Praise, 587).
Strengthened by the Lord, we pray for the advance of the Gospel in all the earth.
To ‘Jew and Gentile’, God says, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’ (Romans 10:12-13). The Jews had praised the Lord Jesus: ‘Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!’. Before long, they were shouting, ‘Crucify Him, crucify Him!’ (John 12:12-13; 19:6). We rejoice that the Gospel has now come to the Gentiles. We remember also that God still ‘holds out His hands to Israel’ (Romans 10:19-21). Still, Christ says, ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem… How often would I have gathered your children together…’ (Luke 13:34). ‘Pray for the peace of Jerusalem’, for the advance of the Gospel among the Jews (Psalm 122:6). Pray also for the ‘voice’ of the Gospel, ‘going out into all the earth’ (Romans 10:18). Pray that ‘faith will come as the Word of Christ is heard’ (Romans 10:17).
Strengthened by the Lord, we give thanks for Jesus Christ, crucified for us.
We read of the feeding of the five thousand (Matthew 14:15-21) and the walking on water (Matthew 14:25-33), and our thoughts go to Calvary. From the feeding with bread and fish, we move to the bread and wine, symbols of Jesus’ body broken for us and His blood shed for us (Matthew 26:26-28). From the confession of faith – ‘Truly You are the Son of God’ (Matthew 14:33), we move to the Cross to hear the centurion’s words of faith; ‘Surely He was the Son of God!’ (Matthew 27:54). We see Jesus, the Man of prayer (Matthew 14:23), the Healer (Matthew 14:35-36), and we look to the Cross, where we experience the healing influence of His prayer for us; ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing’ (Luke 23:34). ‘Thank You for the Cross, The price you paid for us, How You gave Yourself, So completely, Precious Lord, Now our sins are gone, All forgiven, Covered by your blood, All forgotten, Thank You, Lord’ (Mission Praise, 632).