Key verse: Genesis 40:23
Big idea: In the beginning, God remembered Joseph even when no one else did.
Have you ever been betrayed? When someone you cared about and tried to help repays you with mistreatment, it stings. But there may be something worse: being forgotten. At least being mistreated means you are remembered! The sting of apathy is that you do not seem to matter at all. Joseph had felt the slap of betrayal by his brothers, slander by his master’s wife, and unjust imprisonment, but now he had to face neglect. In prison, Joseph once again rose to a place of trust and honor, a trustee who cared for the other prisoners.
Among his charges for a brief period were the baker and butler of Pharaoh, king of Egypt. Although the Bible does not tell us, the most likely explanation seems to be that there had been an attempt on his life by poison, and they were both incarcerated while the perpetrator was identified. In the same night, they both had a dream. When Joseph saw they were troubled by it, he told them that the interpretations dreams belonged to God and asked to hear about it. The butler’s dream revealed that in three days, he would return to Pharaoh’s side and Joseph asked him to mention his case to the king when he was restored. The baker learned that in three days he would be executed.
Everything happened as Joseph had said, but the butler forgot about Joseph. He remained in prison for two more years. People may treat us like that but God does not forget our cries. He blessed Joseph and continued to protect him in his suffering and does the same for us. Our tears are stored in his bottle (Psalm 56:8) and our prayers are stored like sweet incense with Him (Revelation 8:4). Everyone else may oppose us or simply forget we ever existed, but the Lord knows His people. His eye is on the sparrow so He will not neglect His children.
Discussion idea: Have you ever felt forgotten by God? How do we remind ourselves that delays are not denials?
Prayer focus: What in your life are you tempted to think God has forgotten? Ask for forgiveness and assurance that He is with you.
Key verse: Matthew 23:28
Big Idea: King Jesus exposes our hypocrisy.
The Beatitudes back in Matthew 5 described the blessedness of someone who lives by the principles of God’s Kingdom. Those who mourned were poor in spirit and those who were persecuted were really under God’s blessing despite appearances. Chapter 23 tells the other side of the coin: those who looked holy on the outside but were rotten at the core. For these people, instead of calling them blessed, Jesus uses its antonym. Usually translated “woe” or “alas,” one paraphrase elaborates on it with, “What sorrow awaits you!” Their external righteousness won them no credit with God because it went no deeper.
When we were doing this devotional as a family, I decided to act out verse 26. We have a coffee cup with a picture of the McNeill family (a great gospel group which sang at our church late last year). I took it outside, smeared it in the mud, and then washed the outside carefully, so their smiling faces reappeared. But the inside of the cup remained full of southeast Texas clay. I showed it to my then 3-year-old daughter and asked her if she would drink out of it. You can imagine her reaction, especially if I tell you that she wears a tiara every day. Do we think God’s standards are any lower? We can impress the people around us with elaborate ministries, flowery public prayers, and Scripture memorization, but is a cup full of filth ever going to be the tool that delights the Holy One?
It is easy enough to do something that looks like holiness, but God is not impressed. Indeed, while there is no good sin, hypocrisy seems especially dangerous. If someone is involved in flagrant sin, they are often aware of it. Desperation is a good motivator. The hypocrite is just as sinful but has convinced himself (and sometimes other people) that he does not need repentance or forgiveness. Hypocrisy is like a wicked or incompetent physician who treats the pain and leaves the tumor. There is no one so hopeless as someone who does not realize she is sick. God is not satisfied with reforming the outside or with our own efforts to look impressive, but with our hearts. When He changes our hearts because of our faith in Jesus, everything on the outside will follow.
Discussion Idea: What was the last thing you did where outward appearance was the most significant factor? Why is this kind of temptation so enticing?
Prayer Focus: Pray Psalm 139:23-24.