Mi-Kez & Hanukkah
For the week of December 19, 2009 / 2 Tevet 5770
Torah: Bereshit / Genesis 41:1 - 44:17 &
Bemidbar / Numbers 7:54 - 8:4
Haftarah: 1 Melachim / 1 Kings 7:40-50
Knowing When To Take a Stand
Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, "Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command. Only as regards the throne will I be greater than you." (Bereshit / Genesis 41: 39,40; ESV)
The story of Joseph continues during the celebration of Hanukkah. Last week we looked at how it is necessary at times to take a stand against certain kinds of evil. Joseph's unwillingness to give in to his master's wife's overtures kept him from wrongdoing, but resulted in his being sent to prison. Compromising in that situation was not an option for him.
It would be years before God's plan for Joseph would become evident. Having accurately interpreted dreams for two servants of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, Joseph was called upon to interpret a couple of dreams for Pharaoh himself. Joseph's insightful interpretation of the coming seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine along with his wise suggestion of how to prepare for the impending disaster, led to his being appointed as Pharaoh's chief administrator.
Joseph lived the rest of his life in Egyptian government service. His father, brothers, and their families, which were the beginnings of the nation of Israel, all moved to a district of Egypt, where their descendants would remain for over 400 years until the Exodus.
Much of the history of Israel has to do with living among other nations and cultures. God's promises to Abraham included the giving of the Land to his descendants. Israel's relationship to God was intimately connected to whether or not we would be free from foreign rule. As long as we were faithful to God, we lived in peace in our land. But if not, then we would be under the rule and oppression of foreign powers.
Israel's experience in Egypt prior to the Exodus was different from the other times. This was a time of preparation before God gave us the Land. Yet Joseph's experience in Egypt is instructive in how God's people are to live among other cultures.
Being faithful to God and his ways may, from time to time, create tension between us and the prevailing culture in which we live. Pressure may be put on us to conform to the ungodly ways of the people around us. When Joseph's master's wife tempted him to sin, he knew that was something he must not do and took drastic measures in order to stay faithful to God. Last week we saw how this is a good illustration for Hanukkah. There are certain lines we must not cross what ever the cost.
But notice that it wasn't as if Joseph saw himself as constantly being at odds with the prevailing culture. God had called him to be a blessing among foreigners. He knew that he could effectively serve God within the culture. At the same time he had already shown that he could do this while staying faithful to God.
God's people are not called to live at odds with the culture in which we live just because the majority of people within that culture may not believe in Yeshua. Like Joseph, we need to serve God wherever he may lead us. Like Joseph, we should live lives of godliness however others around us might live. As we do this, we, like Joseph, may need to take a stand against the temptation to compromise. Like Joseph, taking such a stand may result in difficult circumstances for us. But, like Joseph, standing for godliness may open doors of service within ungodly cultures in ways beyond our wildest dreams.
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