January 17

Matthew 12:1-21


In verse 7, Jesus says, “But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless.” 


They condemned, or “pronounced guilty,” the guiltless, or “those who did nothing wrong.” Jesus’ disciples were gleaning grain from a field on the Sabbath. In Jewish Law, no work was to be done on the Sabbath. According to the Law, Jesus and His followers were in direct disobedience to the Law. The Pharisees saw it, and accused them. 


Jesus answered, “in this place there is One greater than the temple.” He was referring to Himself. Jesus calls Himself Lord, having authority, even being the authority over the Sabbath. The Sabbath is a day of the week; it isn’t greater than Jesus. The temple is a building; it’s not greater than Jesus. Jesus is greater. The rules and the laws are under His authority. If His team needs to eat, and Jesus tells them they can eat, then they can eat, It’s not unlawful. 


This isn’t the first time recorded in Matthew where Jesus quotes from Hosea 6:6 (see Matthew 9:13).  It says, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” The Jews were sticklers for the Law, but even Christians can have the same judgmental mentality about behaviors, focusing on the behavior without focusing on the heart of God or the heart of the person. 


For the most part, we know the Pharisees hated the freedom that Jesus brought. From the fields of grain, Jesus went into the synagogue. There was a man with a withered hand. The Pharisees wanted to accuse Jesus, so they asked Him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” 


Jesus is a Jew, ministering to Jews. He asked, “IS IT LAWFUL to do GOOD on the Sabbath?” Jesus asks if they wouldn’t help an animal out of a pit on a Sabbath, which, apparently, they would. Jesus talks about the value of a man over an animal. The LAW has a blinding effect. Could they not see that a man had more value than an animal? No. They weren’t concerned about value, they were concerned about rules. They weren’t moved by love; they were moved by control. They weren’t focused on need; they were focused on performance. 


The Pharisees hated Jesus so much that these religious leaders that worked so hard on keeping the rules plotted on how they could have the Son of God murdered. Their Messiah! Make no mistake about it – if you have a freedom from religious works, people who are bound by religion will hate you. When I was first filled with the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues, I was in a church that didn’t teach it and didn’t believe in it. As a 17-year old girl, I went to visit a friend, and the pastor was at her house. He found out that the baptism of the Holy Spirit was spreading among the youth group. The parents of my friend found out about it, and had the pastor over to their home. My friend, Dave, and I walked right into that. The pastor grilled Dave and I, telling us that we were wrong, that the baptism was not for today, that speaking in tongues was demonic, and that we were to stop spreading that teaching. Tell me if that experience was not a little similar to what happened to John the Baptist, Jesus, and the disciples. The Jews told them they were of the devil. The Jews were blind to the Spirit of God. The Jews wanted to quench a fresh move of God. In my experience, part of my young heart was hurting, but the majority of my heart felt a release and a freedom when that pastor kicked us out of his church. God led us into a church where there was a tremendous move of God. We learned the Bible. We experienced the anointing. 


In verse 15, Jesus moves by the Word of Knowledge, knowing that they wanted to physically harm Him, and left from there. We too, can operate in the Word of Knowledge – it is a gift, or manifestation, of the Spirit. 


After telling with the Pharisees, this Scripture is quoted as a fulfillment: it is from Isaiah 42:1-4, but the context of the chapter also applies to Christ’s earthly ministry. It speaks of the Spirit of God moving on Christ. Jesus was not one to quarrel or shout out in the streets. He was gentle. He was unpretentious. To someone who was hurting and bruised by sin and the world, He would not bulldoze them with the Law like the Pharisees. If someone was weak like a smoldering wick of a candle, Jesus would try to strengthen the flame, unlike the religiously proud that would rather stomp it out in condemnation like the Pharisees. 


In addition, because of Jesus’ message of mercy, forgiveness, and freedom, the lost Gentiles would put their trust in Him. Think of it: there were Gentile drawn to Him while He was even on the earth – the Roman Centurion, for example. The lost wouldn’t put their trust in the religious Pharisees – they were judgmental. They were hard taskmasters. They were controlling. No one wants that. The lost are moved to repentance because of the kindness of God. They are hurting from sin. They are weak from sin. They are shamed, afraid, and burdened with guilt. The Good News of the Gospel is wholeness! It’s freedom! It’s life! 


Genesis 41-42



Joseph had been in prison for two years. Into the third year, Pharaoh will call for someone who can interpret his dream. I find it interesting that the two dreams Joseph interpreted in the king’s prison were both in regard to three-day time periods, and Joseph’s release was in the third year. Throughout prophecy, God speaks of a freedom for a third day. Consider for a moment, the two thousand years of scattering of the Jews after the destruction of their temple in 70 AD and their promised one thousand years of freedom under the reign of Christ. Coincidence? I encourage you to do a search of the words three and third in the Bible, and see what you see. 


How do you know if a dream has spiritual significance or was it just a strange dream? When someone has a spiritual dream that has great significance, it often comes with a spiritual weight to it. We see in verse 8, that Pharaoh’s spirit was troubled. He had a knowing that this dream was a message; it had meaning. May I add that if you have a spiritual dream, you will need discernment if the dream is from God, from an evil source, or just your mind. In addition, under the new covenant, you have the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit will reveal the dream, more than likely, as soon as you have it. Under the old covenant, we see prophets or anointed leaders interpreting dreams for others, including Gentile leaders, like Pharaoh. 


Heres’ another lesson: we should not despise small things. It was an important dream that Pharaoh had that would save people’s lives, increase the Hebrews, and free Joseph from prison. However, Pharaoh knew to call Joseph because he interpreted dreams from prison. 


Here’s another lesson: don’t look to your surroundings or circumstances to determine your value, purpose, or your destiny. Joseph was in a pit. Then sold as a slave. Then sexually harassed by an employer. Then thrown into prison. Years went by. Surely he remembered the dreams he was given and the spiritual experience connected with his own calling. He had to keep his heart fixed on God, and so do we. Sometimes God used those experiences to prepare us for ministry, for serving, with a faith that has been tested for dependency and obedience. We can let those hard times shape us and strengthen us, or we can doubt God and miss our opportunity to grow. Also, those times can prove that we didn’t make our destiny come to pass, but the Almighty God did it – showing Himself to the world, as well as giving honor to the humble who put their trust in Him. 


From experience, I will tell you, that times of testing come in waves, and they usually happen before God breaks through with a new anointing. I’ve been through enough of them to know that I need to endure, confident that at some point, God will come through. It’s not just for me. As a leader, I know this is also for the region I am called to serve. Joseph was in place, not to lift him up as better than anyone else, but called to go through difficulty in order to bring others to freedom. Leaders should be given honor, but leaders with the right heart will always point people to God and given HIM the glory, no matter the price that God required that leader to pay. Many leaders don’t make it. God doesn’t want to condemn them; God wants to restore them. But let’s encourage each other to persevere so God can get the victory. 


Joseph prophesied the coming years of abundance and the drought that would follow. Pharaoh gave authority to Joseph to oversee the preparation for the drought. He went from the king’s prison to the king’s palace in an instant. This is one way we see God get glory. When you see something happening suddenly, a person can’t take credit. It’s too obvious that it was the hand of God! If we want to serve God, we have to be willing to go where He leads us. Would God lead us to a prison for two years? Yes, if there is purpose in it. That requires our trust and our faith. 


Notice there were seven years of abundance followed by seven years of famine. The number seven in Hebrew means complete or full. God is sending a message here: He is in control, He is working a plan. We also know the Jews have a final seven years coming before Christ returns, years filled with sorrows. God often worked a certain way in the Old Testament to give a glimpse into the future. They may not have known it then, but Jews and Gentiles see these glimpses today, giving us strength and growing our faith for the days ahead. 


In verse 51, Joseph has a son and names him Manassah, saying, “For God has made me forget all my toil and all my father’s house.” He has another son, naming him Ephraim, saying, “For God has caused me to be fruitful in the land of my affliction.” God’s plan for our lives might lead us through some difficult times, but the joy of the promise will cause us to forget the pain. We just need to endure to the end. 



God is unfolding His plan to move Jacob (Israel) and the family to Egypt. Jacob sends ten of his sons to get grain, keeping Benjamin at home. We know it is wise to protect the bloodline. We also know that Jacob loved Rachel most, and he favored her sons, Joseph being one. The sons go before Joseph, and bow before him as Hebrews in a foreign country in request of purchasing food. Joseph spoke the language of the Egyptians, so he spoke to his brothers through an interpreter. He also most likely dressed like them.  Joseph’s brothers did not recognize him, but Joseph recognized his brothers. The last time he saw their faces was when he was being thrown into a pit, being sold as a slave, and being forced to leave his father. Since that time, Joseph had served as a slave, served in prison, and then promoted to serve the Pharaoh.  He kept his identity a secret, but the dreams from a long time ago were coming to his mind. He was seeing the dreams come to pass in front of his very eyes. Surely, Joseph perceived God was involved in caring for his family. 



Joseph wanted to see his father and brother, so he devised a plan. He accused the foreigners of spying. The brothers shared who they were and where they came from, so Joseph demanded that one be put in prison while the others went to bring the youngest. They were in prison three days (notice the three days being repeated again). 



Verse 21 shows the brothers remorse for what they did to Joseph years before. They also remembered their sin, stating seeing “the anguish of his soul when he pleaded with us.” Reuben speaks up, telling the brothers they should have listened to him. Joseph is in their presence, but the brothers don’t know that Joseph speaks Hebrews. Joseph hears their remorse, recalls that day, and sees their vulnerability. Joseph had to turn away. From deep within his soul, Joseph weeps. 


Joseph bind Simeon in front of them, instructs the other brothers to take grain and return home. Only Joseph has the workers put their money back into their sacks, as a way to keep control over them. He wanted to be sure they would return. Jacob refuses to let them return with Benjamin. To be continued…


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