Religion of Friday, 18 January 2013
Source: Daniel Gyebi
"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts…” (Isaiah 55:8-9).
Many of us think and act logically. We believe that if we do all the “right” things or follow the “correct” protocols and conventions, certain positive results should follow, and they often do. For example, many of us believe that if a child goes to school and studies hard, he or she would do well in exams and go on to graduate to bigger and better things. Or, if a person works hard at the workplace, promotions and good job opportunities would follow. These are noble beliefs and goals worth pursuing. Unfortunately, however, many of us pursue them at the expense of building a closer and deeper relationship with God. We pay attention to many things in life except the one and only God who can change our fortunes. If we continue on that path, we may achieve success based on human standards, but miss God’s abundant blessing and opportunity to become the chosen ones. We should reverse our priorities and seek first the blessing because the blessing of the Lord brings wealth and He adds no trouble to it (Proverbs 10:22).
God plays an active role in our lives. God said to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion" (Romans 9:15; Exodus 33:19). The Bible says that God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him (1 Corinthians 1:27-29).
Because many of us think we have a pretty good sense of how things ought to be, we become very disappointed and angry when our expectations do not match reality. Please take a walk with me through the Bible for ten notable examples of how God chose or blessed certain people over the more obvious candidates or what conventional wisdom or tradition would have dictated.
Abel over Cain. Abel and Cain were two sons of Adam and Eve. Cain was the firstborn. Abel and Cain brought sacrifices to the Lord, but for reasons not explained in the Bible, God looked at Abel and his sacrifice with favor, but not Cain and his sacrifice. Cain could have sought answers from God as to why his sacrifice was not favored and what he could have done better next time, but he did not. Instead, he was consumed by anger, hatred and jealousy, and killed Abel, the first recorded murder in human history (Genesis 4). Today, innocent people are murdered by those who bear grudges against society and other people.
Isaac over Ishmael. Isaac and Ishmael were sons of Abraham, the Patriarch of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Ishmael was the oldest. Yet, God’s abundant blessing went to Isaac as the chosen one. Ironically, God chose Isaac before he was even born, and by-passed Ishmael who was already born (Genesis 17).
Jacob over Esau. Jacob and Esau were twin brothers. Their father Isaac was old and thought he was about to die so he wanted to bless his firstborn son, Esau. Isaac asked Esau to prepare a meal for him before the blessing, but by the time the meal was ready, their mother Rebekah had conspired with Jacob, and Jacob impersonated his brother and tricked his father for the blessing. The truth came out a few minutes later, but Isaac refused to reverse it. And so there was no blessing left for Esau despite his tearful pleas to his father. Thus, the blessing went to Jacob as the chosen one to rule over his senior bother Esau and all his other brothers (Genesis 27). This fulfilled what the Lord had said to Rebekah when she was pregnant with the twins, that the older would serve the younger (Genesis 25:23).
Joseph over his senior brothers. Jacob had 12 sons. All of them were older than Joseph except Benjamin. Yet, Joseph was the chosen one. He rose to become the number two person in Egypt, second only to Pharaoh. Joseph achieved this prominence despite the conspiracy by his brothers to eliminate him. In fact, their diabolical plot helped him to reach that height because he could not have gone to Egypt by himself. Sometimes, your enemies may help to promote you.
Ephraim over Manasseh. Ephraim and Manasseh were two of Joseph’s sons. Joseph’s father, Jacob, was about to die and wanted to bless the two sons. Joseph placed Ephraim towards Jacob’s left hand and Manasseh towards Jacob’s right hand so that Manasseh, as the oldest son, would receive most of the blessings. However, Jacob crossed his hands and placed his right hand on Ephraim’s head and the left hand on Manasseh’s head. Joseph, aware of the divine implications, protested and reminded his father that Manasseh was the firstborn and deserved most of the blessings. Joseph then tried to move Jacob’s hands and place them where conventional wisdom dictated, but Jacob said he knew what he was doing and refused to change it. Thus, Jacob placed younger Ephraim ahead of firstborn Manasseh, and said that Ephraim would be greater than Manasseh (Genesis 48).
Moses over Aaron. Moses and Aaron were the sons of Amram and Jochebed. Aaron was the oldest and also a Levite. Moses had killed someone in Egypt and had run away from there. Yet, God chose Moses, a fugitive from justice with speech impairment, over his more eloquent senior brother, Aaron, to lead the people of Israel out of bondage in Egypt. Even when Moses protested about his own lack of qualifications for the assignment, citing the speech impairment etc., and asked God to choose someone else, God did not change His mind, but offered that Aaron would help him (Exodus chapters 3 and 4). A lesson for all of us: We should not let our disabilities or weaknesses become our stumbling block. It is what God says He would do that matters.
David over his senior brothers. God decided to take the kingship of Israel away from Saul because of Saul’s disobedience. God sent the Prophet Samuel to anoint Saul’s successor from Jesse’s sons. The Prophet Samuel saw Eliab, one of the older sons of Jesse and thought, "Surely the LORD's anointed stands here before the LORD." But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16: 6-7). Eventually David, who was not initially considered or presented by his own father as a potential king, was chosen. If it were not for the Lord, David would not have had the chance to audition for the kingship when the others were paraded before Samuel. Following conventional wisdom, Samuel would have selected Eliab. Therefore, if your family, friends, or others look down on you, do not lose hope; your blessing is on the way. The God of David is there for the asking if you choose to follow His ways. Then you will have cause to sing with David that you will lift up your eyes to the hills and your help will come from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth (Psalm 121:1).
Solomon over his senior brothers. Solomon was chosen over his senior brothers even though there is no record in the Bible to suggest that he had distinguished himself in any way over his senior brothers prior to his selection. Solomon was chosen even as his older brother and heir apparent, Adonijah, was scheming and proclaiming himself king (1 Kings 1). After he became king, Solomon prayed to God for wisdom and understanding and God answered his prayer. And what a wise and great King he became!
Peter over the other 11 disciples. Peter was the acknowledged leader of the 12 disciples even though he was not the first disciple called by Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ or the oldest or the most educated. His senior brother Andrew was called first and he brought him to Christ. Andrew had more discipleship experience, having previously served as a disciple of John the Baptist (John 1:35-40). And Matthew, the tax collector (perhaps the chartered accountant or CPA in those days), was presumably better educated than Peter, the fisherman. Yet, Peter was the undisputed leader among the 12 disciples.
Paul was selected over more “righteous” people to carry the message of Christ to the Gentiles. Before his encounter with the Lord, Paul spent his time working against the Christian faith and sponsoring the killings of Christians. One would have thought that the post of the best missionary ever should have been given to one of the 12 disciples or one of the more deserving followers of Christ. However, the Lord saw it differently.
Some of the choices and blessings may seem unfair to the human mind, but God’s ways are not our ways. God works in mysterious ways. For instance, the Bible says that no one from the east or the west or from the desert can exalt a man. But it is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another (Psalm 75:6-7). Since we cannot fully understand God, we should be a little more careful about our thoughts, words, and deeds. Therefore, whenever we are confronted with a situation that does not seem to make sense to us or that defies our human understanding, we should calm down, reflect, and ask whether the hand of the Almighty God is in it. This reflection for divine revelation should be carried out not through anger or bitterness towards the blessed or chosen ones, as Cain did, but through prayer and waiting upon the Lord to know His divine will. While doing so, we should keep in perspective that our God is able. God is able to take the weak and make him or her strong, the poor and make him or her rich, the fool and make him or her wise, and the sinner and make him or her saint. The redeeming grace and power of God are so great and pervasive that they reach everywhere to everyone. It is still morning in Ghana. My brothers and sisters, there is hope for all of us. If properly managed, this period of unrest in Ghana could still be the dawn of progress for Ghanaians and Ghana. Therefore, let’s cheer up, tap into His grace and power, and see what God will do for Ghanaians and our dear country Ghana. Let’s pray for our president and leaders for God to give them the courage and strength of David, the wisdom of Solomon, and the righteous zeal of Peter and Paul. Ghanaians and Ghana would be the beneficiaries. May the peace of God which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).
Dr. Daniel Gyebi, Attorney-at-Law, Texas, U.S.A., and Founder, PrayerHouse Ministry, Kumasi, Ghana. PrayerHouse Ministry is dedicated to providing a quiet facility for Christians to pray individually by themselves without any intermediary priest, pastor or any other person. This is a free service. No money is demanded or accepted. The facility is located at Kyerekrom / Fumesua, near Building and Road Research Institute Offices, one mile off the Kumasi-Accra Road and next to a house called Grace Castle.
If you are interested, please contact Agnes at 027-7423815. January 17, 2013.