Day 21

Be Honest with God

Wisdom Psalm 12:1-8
New Testament Matthew 14:22-15:9
Old Testament Genesis 41:41-42:38

Introduction

We are living in a ‘post-truth’ era. The term increased 2000% in prevalence during the Brexit and U.S presidential debates. In a ‘post-truth’ era, objective facts appear less influential than appeals to emotion. There is a tolerance for dishonest, inaccurate allegations and outright denial of facts. Political half-truths and blatant lies become routine.

But if you buy a car, you want to know the truth about that car. In a relationship, you want to know the truth. We hunger for honesty and truth. The new generation (following the millennials) Gen Z – people born between 1995 to 2010 – have been called ‘True Gen’ because of their search for truth.

We see in our passages for today that God hates lies and deception. David says, ‘People all lie to their neighbours; their flattering lips speak with deception’ (Psalm 12:2). Jesus quoted Isaiah, ‘These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me’ (Matthew 15:8). Although Joseph’s brothers had deceived their father about the fate of Joseph (Genesis 37:31–35), they knew in their hearts that they could not deceive God: ‘Surely we are being punished because of our brother’ (42:21).

God wants you to be honest with him. He likes candour. He wants to hear what is on your heart today.

Wisdom

Psalm 12:1-8

Psalm 12

For the director of music. According to sheminith. A psalm of David.

1 Help, Lord, for no one is faithful anymore;
  those who are loyal have vanished from the human race.
2 Everyone lies to their neighbor;
  they flatter with their lips
  but harbor deception in their hearts.

3 May the Lord silence all flattering lips
  and every boastful tongue—
4 those who say,
  “By our tongues we will prevail;
  our own lips will defend us—who is lord over us?”

5 “Because the poor are plundered and the needy groan,
  I will now arise, ” says the Lord.
  “I will protect them from those who malign them.”
6 And the words of the Lord are flawless,
  like silver purified in a crucible,
  like gold refined seven times.

7 You, Lord, will keep the needy safe
  and will protect us forever from the wicked,
8 who freely strut about
  when what is vile is honored by the human race.

Commentary

Ask God for help

The cry of David’s heart is, ‘Help, Lord’ (v.1). He laments over the state of society in his day – a society that was not dissimilar to our own today. He describes lies, deceit, arrogance, greed and selfishness.

‘Everyone talks in lie language;
Lies slide off their oily lips.
They doubletalk with forked tongues’ (v.2, MSG).

God is not impressed by people who are clever with words. David’s opening cry for help is answered as God promises aid to the weak and needy: ‘I will arise… I will protect them from those who malign them’ (v.5).

David then contrasts God’s trustworthiness with the emptiness of the lies of those around him: ‘The words and promises of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in an earthen furnace, purified seven times over’ (v.6, AMP). This gives him confidence that the Lord will keep him safe and protect him in spite of all the deception around. ‘O Lord, you will keep us safe and protect us from such people forever’ (v.7).

‘Help, Lord’ is a great prayer at the start of a day as you ask God to guide you in all that you are involved in.

Prayer

Lord, help me… (bring to God all the things that you are involved in today).

New Testament

Matthew 14:22-15:9

Jesus Walks on the Water

22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

29 “Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. 33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

34 When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret. 35 And when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all their sick to him 36 and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.

That Which Defiles

15Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, 2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”

3 Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’ 5 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is ‘devoted to God,’ 6 they are not to ‘honor their father or mother’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. 7 You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:

8 “‘These people honor me with their lips,
  but their hearts are far from me.
9 They worship me in vain;
  their teachings are merely human rules. ’ ”

Commentary

Keep speaking to God in the storm

Jesus loved to get away on his own to pray – ‘he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray’ (14:23). When you are completely on your own with God, you can speak to him honestly and from the depths of your heart.

It is this closeness to God that enables Jesus to walk on water. He encourages Peter to do the same. But when Peter sees ‘the wind’ (v.30) he starts to panic. I know that feeling exactly. Sometimes, when things start to go wrong, I take my eyes off Jesus. As I focus on the circumstances around me, I begin to ‘sink’. In the middle of all this, Peter prays a panic prayer: ‘Lord, save me!’ (v.30).

Even though it is a panic prayer, it is also a cry from the heart. ‘Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him’ (v.31). As I look back at panic prayers I have prayed, it is wonderful to see the ways in which some of them have been answered.

As Jesus and Peter climb back into the boat, the wind dies down and ‘then those who were in the boat worshipped [Jesus], saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”’ (v.33).

The incident finishes with all the disciples giving a cry of the heart in worship. This is quite extraordinary. Monotheistic Jews, who knew the commandment that they should worship God alone, worship Jesus. They recognise that Jesus is ‘the Son of God’.

In fact, Jesus’ first words to the disciples as he is walking on water are literally, ‘Take courage! I AM. Don’t be afraid’ (v.27). ‘I AM’ is the name for God in the Old Testament (Exodus 3:14). Jesus is telling the disciples, and us, that he is the great ‘I AM’, so there is no need to fear. In whatever situations you are in today, this is a huge reassurance that Jesus is in control.

You may not always have the comfort of understanding what Jesus is doing or why he is letting life be the way it is, but you do have the comfort of knowing that he is in control.

They brought to Jesus all who were sick and cried out for healing. They ‘begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed’ (Matthew 14:36).

In the next section (15:1–9), Jesus challenges the Pharisees about what is really going on in ‘their hearts’ (v.8). It starts with them challenging Jesus about his disciples breaking traditions. But Jesus turns the tables on them.

The Scriptures make it clear that we should make it a high priority to look after our families – especially our parents. The Pharisees had come up with spurious reasons why the money that would have been used to help them was dedicated to God, and therefore could not be used to honour and help their own parents (v.5).

Jesus accuses them of hypocrisy. The word ‘hypocrite’ literally means ‘someone who puts on a mask in a play’. Their mask is honouring God with their lips, but in reality, ‘their hearts are far from [him]’ (v.8). God is far more concerned about your heart than your lips.

Prayer

Lord, I worship you today as the Son of God. Thank you that I do not need to be afraid – when things go wrong, I can speak to you and you hear my prayers.

Old Testament

Genesis 41:41-42:38

Joseph in Charge of Egypt

41 So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.” 42 Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph’s finger. He dressed him in robes of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck. 43 He had him ride in a chariot as his second-in-command, and people shouted before him, “Make way!” Thus he put him in charge of the whole land of Egypt.

44 Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I am Pharaoh, but without your word no one will lift hand or foot in all Egypt.” 45 Pharaoh gave Joseph the name Zaphenath-Paneah and gave him Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, to be his wife. And Joseph went throughout the land of Egypt.

46 Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from Pharaoh’s presence and traveled throughout Egypt. 47 During the seven years of abundance the land produced plentifully. 48 Joseph collected all the food produced in those seven years of abundance in Egypt and stored it in the cities. In each city he put the food grown in the fields surrounding it. 49 Joseph stored up huge quantities of grain, like the sand of the sea; it was so much that he stopped keeping records because it was beyond measure.

50 Before the years of famine came, two sons were born to Joseph by Asenath daughter of Potiphera, priest of On. 51 Joseph named his firstborn Manasseh and said, “It is because God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” 52 The second son he named Ephraim and said, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.”

53 The seven years of abundance in Egypt came to an end, 54 and the seven years of famine began, just as Joseph had said. There was famine in all the other lands, but in the whole land of Egypt there was food. 55 When all Egypt began to feel the famine, the people cried to Pharaoh for food. Then Pharaoh told all the Egyptians, “Go to Joseph and do what he tells you.”

56 When the famine had spread over the whole country, Joseph opened all the storehouses and sold grain to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe throughout Egypt. 57 And all the world came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe everywhere.

Joseph’s Brothers Go to Egypt

42When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why do you just keep looking at each other?” 2 He continued, “I have heard that there is grain in Egypt. Go down there and buy some for us, so that we may live and not die.”

3 Then ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain from Egypt. 4 But Jacob did not send Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, with the others, because he was afraid that harm might come to him. 5 So Israel’s sons were among those who went to buy grain, for there was famine in the land of Canaan also.

6 Now Joseph was the governor of the land, the person who sold grain to all its people. So when Joseph’s brothers arrived, they bowed down to him with their faces to the ground. 7 As soon as Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he pretended to be a stranger and spoke harshly to them. “Where do you come from?” he asked.

“From the land of Canaan,” they replied, “to buy food.”

8 Although Joseph recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him. 9 Then he remembered his dreams about them and said to them, “You are spies! You have come to see where our land is unprotected.”

10 “No, my lord, ” they answered. “Your servants have come to buy food. 11 We are all the sons of one man. Your servants are honest men, not spies. ”

12 “No!” he said to them. “You have come to see where our land is unprotected.”

13 But they replied, “Your servants were twelve brothers, the sons of one man, who lives in the land of Canaan. The youngest is now with our father, and one is no more.”

14 Joseph said to them, “It is just as I told you: You are spies! 15 And this is how you will be tested: As surely as Pharaoh lives, you will not leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here. 16 Send one of your number to get your brother; the rest of you will be kept in prison, so that your words may be tested to see if you are telling the truth. If you are not, then as surely as Pharaoh lives, you are spies! ” 17 And he put them all in custody for three days.

18 On the third day, Joseph said to them, “Do this and you will live, for I fear God: 19 If you are honest men, let one of your brothers stay here in prison, while the rest of you go and take grain back for your starving households. 20 But you must bring your youngest brother to me, so that your words may be verified and that you may not die.” This they proceeded to do.

21 They said to one another, “Surely we are being punished because of our brother. We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that’s why this distress has come on us.”

22 Reuben replied, “Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy? But you wouldn’t listen! Now we must give an accounting for his blood.” 23 They did not realize that Joseph could understand them, since he was using an interpreter.

24 He turned away from them and began to weep, but then came back and spoke to them again. He had Simeon taken from them and bound before their eyes.

25 Joseph gave orders to fill their bags with grain, to put each man’s silver back in his sack, and to give them provisions for their journey. After this was done for them, 26 they loaded their grain on their donkeys and left.

27 At the place where they stopped for the night one of them opened his sack to get feed for his donkey, and he saw his silver in the mouth of his sack. 28 “My silver has been returned,” he said to his brothers. “Here it is in my sack.”

Their hearts sank and they turned to each other trembling and said, “What is this that God has done to us?”

29 When they came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan, they told him all that had happened to them. They said, 30 “The man who is lord over the land spoke harshly to us and treated us as though we were spying on the land. 31 But we said to him, ‘We are honest men; we are not spies. 32 We were twelve brothers, sons of one father. One is no more, and the youngest is now with our father in Canaan.’

33 “Then the man who is lord over the land said to us, ‘This is how I will know whether you are honest men: Leave one of your brothers here with me, and take food for your starving households and go. 34 But bring your youngest brother to me so I will know that you are not spies but honest men. Then I will give your brother back to you, and you can trade in the land. ’”

35 As they were emptying their sacks, there in each man’s sack was his pouch of silver! When they and their father saw the money pouches, they were frightened. 36 Their father Jacob said to them, “You have deprived me of my children. Joseph is no more and Simeon is no more, and now you want to take Benjamin. Everything is against me! ”

37 Then Reuben said to his father, “You may put both of my sons to death if I do not bring him back to you. Entrust him to my care, and I will bring him back.”

38 But Jacob said, “My son will not go down there with you; his brother is dead and he is the only one left. If harm comes to him on the journey you are taking, you will bring my gray head down to the grave in sorrow. ”

Commentary

Speak to God from the depths of your heart

Joseph finished well – but he started out badly. He had been in a ‘pit’ (37:24, KJV), and in ‘prison’ (39:20), but he ended up in a ‘palace’ (45:16).

Like so many people in the Bible (Jesus, John the Baptist, Ezekiel, and the priests and Levites serving in the temple – see Numbers 4) Joseph started his life’s work at the age of thirty (41:46). Up to that time Joseph had been in training. Now he is put ‘in charge of the whole land of Egypt’ (v.41).

God had seen Joseph’s heart in the midst of all his trouble. For the thirteen years between the ages of seventeen and thirty Joseph must have wondered what God was doing. He had been through so much rejection, suffering, injustice, imprisonment, disappointment and other trials. But through it all God was preparing him to be put in charge of ‘the whole land of Egypt’ (v.41).

God knew he could be trusted because his heart was right. He had stayed close to the Lord through all the trials. This is what matters – not whether you are in a period of battle or a period of blessing, but whether you are staying close to the Lord and communicating with him from your heart.

Joseph named his two children Manasseh (‘God has made me forget all my trouble’, v.51) and Ephraim (‘God has made me fruitful’, v.52). The common thread in these two names is the four-word phrase ‘God has made me’. In both the times of suffering (Manasseh) and the times of success (Ephraim), Joseph acknowledges that it is God who is in control.

Don’t let your heart be bitter in times of suffering, nor boastful in times of success. Recognise that God is sovereign over your life and your situation.

In contrast to Joseph, his brothers had had to live with their deception and guilt (42:21 onwards): ‘Now we’re paying for what we did to our brother… and now we’re the ones in trouble’ (v.21, MSG). ‘Their hearts sank’ (v.28), but with their lips they said, ‘we are honest men’ (v.31).

In all this Joseph’s original dreams were being fulfilled. In spite of all he had been through, he kept trusting God and being faithful to him. It started out badly, but it finished well.

Never let go of your God-given dreams. Even if you start off in a ‘pit’ or a ‘prison’, like Joseph, you may end up in a ‘palace’. As Joyce Meyer writes, ‘No matter where you started, you can have a great finish… Even if you are in a pit today, God can still raise you up and do great things in you and through you!’

Prayer

Lord, help me to lead a life of integrity. May my lips and my heart be at one with each other. I want to speak to you honestly from the depths of my heart. Thank you that you hear the cry of my heart.

Pippa adds

Joseph goes from being a forgotten prisoner to governor of the most powerful nation of its time.

Peter goes from a courageous act of faith – walking on the water – to sinking in fear.

It’s the highs and lows of faith.

Joseph was ready for his sudden rise to power. He saved thousands of lives from starvation and an economy from being ruined. We need more people to rise up like Joseph, who fear God, have prophetic revelation, and who are great leaders with the skills to implement a rescue plan.

Verse of the Day

Matthew 14:27

‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’
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References

The One Year® is a registered trademark of Tyndale House Publishers. Used by permission.

Joyce Meyer, Everyday Life Bible (Faithwords, 2018), p.72.

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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