The Struggles of the Believer (Part Fifteen)

Luke 12:51-53

Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law (ESV).

Next, let’s contemplate the struggles that come from the schemes of in-laws. This happens when, for whatever reasons, parents, aunts and uncles or siblings begin to interfere in a couple’s marriage, or just want to cause them trouble. Mother-in-law jokes abound about the wife’s mother. But as one counselor wittily observed, “You don’t hear mother-in-law jokes about the husband’s mother, because it’s not a matter for jokes.” Whether or not you agree with that chestnut, it is a rare couple who can say that they never had an in-law problem. Here are two biblical examples of this problem.

  • The troubles that came between Jacob and Laban. Here was a case of two crooked schemers matching wits and both losing. Both were miserable and had a hard life, and eventually came to a sad parting. Laban did not want his son-in-law to succeed.
  • The jealousy of Saul against David. Here David was godly and innocent of wrong against his father-in-law, but Saul had turned his back on the Lord and was jealous of David. Saul could never get over his jealousy, and caused his son-in-law years of sorrow and deprivation. If it happened to the man after God’s own heart, don’t be surprised if it happens to you.

How can we form a biblical pattern of response?

  • Do not descend to the level of your interfering in-laws. If not for God’s sovereign mercy, Jacob would have had nothing and perhaps even died at Laban’s hand (Genesis 31:23-29, 43-53). But do not presume that God will bail you out. We must remember that the storyline of the Bible shows how God’s purpose triumphed in spite of huge opposition. The hero of the story is God, and not the people who we read of in the story. Looking for the same outcome they received can be spiritually dangerous. Also, never judge the righteousness of your actions by the apparent outcome or how you feel. The Holy Scriptures alone set forth God’s standard of righteousness.
  • Allow God to be the Judge. Do not take matters into your own hands, but trust God to do the right thing. This is the pattern of action that David followed (1 Samuel 24 & 26). This can prove to be very difficult because our emotions operate in overdrive when family members are involved.

Here is an important principle. It is our duty to obey God and let him handle the consequences. We may do the right thing and suffer for it, but at the end, he will reward our faithfulness. You are living for more than the next few years. Keep eternity in view. And beware of seeking revenge. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Give careful thought to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for God’s wrath, because it is written, Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord. But If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. For in so doing you will be heaping fiery coals on his head. Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good (Romans 12:17-21 CSB).

Grace and peace, David

The Tarnished Silver Spoon (Part One)


Genesis 37:1-11

The vast majority of people have the desire to be rich. Part of this is fueled by jealousy. I saw that all labor and all skillful work is due to a man’s jealousy of his friend. This too is futile and a pursuit of the wind (Ecclesiastes 4:4 CSB). Part of it is the assumption that wealth is the answer to trouble in this world. People imagine, “If only I could live the life of the rich and the famous, I would be out of the misery that I’m in. If only I had been brought up with a silver spoon in my mouth, how happy I would be!”

In order to dissuade us from such sentiments, the Spirit tells us in the Scriptures numerous stories of people who had wealth and still had many problems. Think, for example, of Abraham, Job, and Solomon. The Lord wants us to know that the silver spoon is tarnished in this world (cf. Ecclesiastes 2:4-11). Sin has corrupted us, and all creation is under the curse because of human sin. We cannot find rest and contentment in this world. In God’s word, we learn to have confidence in the living God. Any trust in riches will not last, and riches cannot meet your deepest needs. Trust in the Lord and the promises of grace. In this series of articles, we will see how God’s plan of grace worked in and through the life of Joseph, the eleventh son of Jacob.

In order to grasp what is happening in the life of Joseph, we need to know how his story fits into the story of God’s glory. The Lord of all had been acting in his family opening for generations as he worked out his missional plan. Remember what the Lord had said to Abraham. Go out from your land, your relatives, and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, I will curse anyone who treats you with contempt, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you (Genesis 12:1-3 CSB). This plan would involve the sending of God’s Son, the Messiah, to us. Through Abraham’s seed, blessing would come to all the peoples of the earth.

As we observe the family into which Joseph was born, we can make a few observations.

  • Joseph was born into a family that was very much in the good purposes of God. This alone would make his spoon “silver”. God’s people today are likewise born into this family by grace through faith in Christ.
  • God blessed his family financially. Over the years Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob accumulated a large amount of wealth. To the worldly minded person, this would make “Joseph’s spoon” seem very silver.
  • But this family was bitterly divided. Joseph’s father Jacob had four wives. That alone would be enough to insure that rivalries would develop. After the death of his mother Rachel, Joseph would be more exposed to the internal strife, because Rachel was not present to counter the schemes of the other women and their children. This is where we see a lot of tarnish on the silver spoon.

Yet, behind this tragedy was God, working all things for the good of this family, and all the people’s of the world. The Lord would act to make this divided household into a great nation (Genesis 12:2). In four hundred years, this family would plunder the wealth of the greatest nation on the earth, the Egyptian Empire. But far greater was the spiritual riches of the gospel promise that was God’s goal. Now the Scripture saw in advance that God would justify the Gentiles by faith and proclaimed the good news ahead of time to Abraham, saying, All the nations will be blessed through you (Galatians 3:8 CSB).

What mercy Joseph received to be brought up in a home where the true God was worshiped and loved! He early learned whom and how to worship. God would protect him through the trial he would face as young man in a land of terrible idolatry. As Joseph followed the Lord, he would have to sort through this perplexity: How does the gracious plan of God make sense with the sorrow and physical sufferings that he would have to endure? Joseph would need to learn to live by faith. We must also.

What challenges of faith are you facing today? Health? Job and finances? Family issues? The Lord doesn’t promise us easy or quick solutions. The problems our faith must encounter can be long and difficult. Have confidence in God and his long term plan.

Grace and peace, David