Key verse: Genesis 41:16
Big idea: In the beginning, God gave Joseph wisdom.
What does the word "wise" mean to you? It is something different than intelligence: someone can be wise without being smart or smart without being wise. In the book of Exodus, master craftsmen are described as full of wisdom. Rather than knowledge, wisdom is skill. It is the ability to make the right decision for the situation, and to execute it. Our society may have a lot of education and we may have a lot of opinions, but we have far too little wisdom.
The exiled son of Jacob was in need of a lot of wisdom. He was standing before a king from another culture, who expected answers from him and was not afraid to use violence when it suited him. Pharaoh had one question: "What did my dreams mean?" Joseph did not take credit for the interpretation but explained to Pharaoh that dreams belong to God. Here, Joseph showed what Solomon would later write: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10)." To grow in wisdom, we must first recognize how little we can know. Once we know how desperately we need God, we can turn to Him and learn from Him. James, the brother of Jesus, promised as much in James 1:5: "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him."
When Joseph explained that the dreams represented seven years of abundance followed by seven years of famine, he showed that God had given him great understanding. The solution he proposed in an instant (appointing someone to store up the excess during the seven fat years to consume during the lean) showed great wisdom. God gave Joseph the wisdom he needed to rescue Egypt. But that was not God's sole goal: the famine extended to the whole region. His own family would ultimately come to Egypt and survive because of His wisdom. When Joseph rescued Pharaoh, he preserved the means by which Christ would rescue the world. The Lord still gives wisdom to us today, to enable us to carry out the commission He has given us.
Discussion idea: What is an area of your life where you feel uncertain and in need of wisdom? What would seeking God's wisdom in that situation look like?
Prayer focus: In accordance with the promise of James, ask God for wisdom.
Key verse: Matthew 24:14
Big Idea: Be ready! The King is coming.
Matthew 24 and 25 are called the Olivet Discourse: a sermon preached by Jesus about the end of the age. He predicted the destruction of the Temple, which would happen in AD 70, and His disciples assumed that such a thing must mean the end has come. So they asked Jesus what the sign will be that He is coming in glory and ending the world? Jesus warns them that persecution and false christs will come, wars, famines, and earthquakes, too. Many people half-jokingly think the same thing about 2020. Surely, if things are this bad the end must be at hand. But that is not the way the world ends: it is just the beginning of birth pains.
War can cause great suffering, but no human conflict will complete history. Plagues and famines may take a tremendous toll on human life, but they will not be the world’s death knell. Jesus’ disciples will be persecuted, attested, and hated for following Jesus, but never finally overcome. God is waiting on something different: the gospel to be preached to all nations. When that has been accomplished, then the end will come. This is no slight distinction: the end of the age is not the defeat of God’s plan and people, but His triumph! When the message of the Kingdom has permeated to every place, then the King will come.
He warns us to be ready because His return may seem delayed, but it will happen suddenly and unexpectedly. It will be like the flood in Noah’s day, when people didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. There was no time to get ready once it began to rain. The Lord is waiting now while the gospel message brings salvation to those who believe in Him, but He will not wait forever. There is a last chance to accept Him, whether it is because of His return or our own deaths. There is a last chance to share the gospel with someone, too.
Eschatology is not an abstract academic pursuit. It should motivate us to be prepared. Not by building underground bunkers or stockpiling food, but by finding the safety that only comes in Jesus and bringing others in. If we have found safety in Christ, then the final judgment is not something to fear, but to celebrate.
Discussion Idea: When have you had to do something quickly because you knew that your parents/boss/spouse would be there soon? If we know that Jesus will come, but not when, how should we be prepared?
Prayer Focus: Go to JoshuaProject.net and find an unreached people group to read about and pray for. This video (just under 7 minutes long) is a great introduction to the work taking place in Indonesia to take the Bible to the Yetfa people.