For the week of December 22, 2007 13 Tevet 5768
Torah: Bereshit / Genesis 47:28 - 50:26
Haftarah: 1 Melachim / 1 Kings 2:1-12
But Joseph said to them, "Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones." Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. (Bereshit / Genesis 50:19-21; ESV)
The number one movie in North America last weekend (December 7-9) was "The Golden Compass," based on the book by Phillip Pullman. According to his web site, Mr. Pullman is a committed atheist. Having not read his books themselves and having no interest in seeing this movie, I will make no further comment on him or the film. But what is interesting to me is that the title of this film, written by a man who claims God doesn't exist, is a reminder of God's compass.
The benefit of a compass is that it directs us to a fixed point. Wherever you are (with the exception of being very close to either of the north or south poles), it will always point north. However good or bad your personal sense of direction might be, a compass will tell you where to go. The compass itself isn't the fixed point, but by pointing to it, it can accurately and effectively guide you.
Compasses function as they do because of certain laws of physics that God has put in place. Due to God's design we can find the fixed point through which we can get our bearings. In the same way God has provided a spiritual compass - the Scriptures - through which we can find our spiritual bearings. Just like a compass points to a fixed point on earth as established by God, so the Bible points us to the fixed moral and spiritual points in life that God has established.
When using a compass, it is essential to not allow our own perceptions and feelings to get in the way of what it is telling us. In the same way, when we read the Bible, it is necessary to not allow our own perceptions and feelings to get in the way of what God is telling us.
Some people who believe the Bible don't believe it is a compass. They don't believe God has established fixed points to which the Bible directs us, or if there are fixed points, what they are is hidden from us. For them the Bible has become a book of spiritual experiences that encourage us in our own spiritual experiences and that's all. The legitimacy of any given experience is dependant on ourselves, not on objective standards established by God. As a result they go through life without a compass, striving to be content in their lost-ness.
This is not how Joseph saw life with God. Even though Joseph lived before most of the Bible was written, he understood God's ways as fixed points. His understanding of God that he inherited from his father, grandfather, and great grandfather was a compass directing him according to those fixed points. By accepting that God was whom he revealed himself to be and by adhering to God's standards, Joseph was able to be the man God called him to be. Knowing God as he did enabled him to keep his bearings through all the confusion he endured for so many years. By allowing himself to stay focused on God, his difficulties never did him in. Instead, his difficult circumstances prepared him for the great things he was called to accomplish.
Joseph's understanding of God had nothing to do with his personal perceptions, feelings, or preferences. Rather it was a compass enabling him to arrive at the right destination through the storms of life. Through the Bible we too have a compass, which reveals God's fixed points and through which we can be accurately and effectively directed in life. The more we give ourselves to its direction, the better equipped we will be to traverse the path of life.
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