Day 21

Be Honest with God

Wisdom Psalm 12:1-8
New Testament Matthew 14:22–36
Old Testament Genesis 41:41-46

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

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

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.’

7 You, Lord, will keep the needy safe
   and will protect us for ever from the wicked,
8 who freely strut about
   when what is vile is honoured 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 14:22–36

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 recognised Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all who were ill to him 36 and begged him to let those who were ill just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.

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 41:41-46

41 So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.” 46Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

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 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.’

Thought for the Day

‘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.
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References

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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