The land of affliction

And the name of the second he called Ephraim: “For God has caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.”  Genesis 41:52

Joseph was a man who knew a great deal about affliction.  Betrayed by brothers, accused falsely, forgotten.  These are the things in life that can leave us scarred.  But they don’t have to.  God, who holds our times in His hand, can turn our affliction into something fruitful and glorifying to Him.  This is what God did in the life of Joseph.

It is interesting to notice how Jesus responded to times of grief.  When He learned of the death of John the Baptist, He retreated for a few moments alone.  But He didn’t stay there.

It is one of those wonderful ways of God that He often chooses to make the land of affliction a fruit-bearing land.   Our human tendency can be to isolate ourselves and nurse our wounds.  Or rehearse our wounds, thus opening them again and again.  It is  often from these broken places that God will bring life.  But we must be willing to move past the pain, the desire for vindication, the trap of self-pity, and begin to see the potential that exists in each affliction for God to be glorified.

Affliction is the common lot of all men.   We may choose to be self absorbed and waste it.  Or we may choose to cast ourselves, in the midst of the pain, at the feet of a loving God, to be a vessel that demonstrates His glory.

Here I am,  Lord.

Joseph – just and merciful

“Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.”  Matthew 1:19

Joseph was a man who followed the commands of God.  He knew the law and he obeyed the law.  He would have known that the punishment for a woman caught in adultery was to be stoned to death.  It would not have been wrong for him to demand this sentence to be executed upon Mary.  But it was not in his heart to do that.   And once he received God’s instruction through a dream, he knew what he needed to do and he did it.

Although I cannot tell for certain, it appears that Joseph did not take Mary to him as his wife until she was already more than 3 months pregnant.  People being the same then as now, they were certainly doing the math when the baby was born.  All appearances were that Joseph had acted improperly during their betrothal.  This just man appeared, in the eyes of others, to be most unjust. 

What better man to be the earthly father of Jesus than one who loved and obeyed the law, but also valued mercy; one who himself, very probably, had borne reproach for his obedience to God.

How I thank God for the men and women he has placed in my life who model the love and mercy of God, and who believe in holiness and obedience to God even when it brings the displeasure or disapproval of man.   And I pray that He will make me one of these people as well, who faithfully imitates Christ in my following of Him.