January 27, 2015

God’s gracious blessings

Last night I brought an item to the till in a store, but it didn’t have a tag. I told the clerk what I remembered about the price ($1.99), but since he was the only clerk with a line of people, I offered to go back for a price check. My memory fell short; it was $2.99 and I told him the higher price. In the meantime, he called someone because he didn’t know how to ring it in without a barcode. The store manager heard me say the higher price and he asked if $1.99 would be okay. I said that was fine with me . . .  and I thought of grace.

When Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt to buy grain during the famine, Joseph recognized them, but they did not know who he was. After the transaction, they went home only to discover that the money they paid for the grain was back in their possession. They were terrified but didn’t know what to do.

The famine continued so they had to return to Egypt for more grain. The story had much more to it, but this detail touched my heart. When they told Joseph that his payment was still in their bags, he replied, “Peace to you, do not be afraid. Your God and the God of your father has put treasure in your sacks for you. I received your money.” (Genesis 43:23)

This is an excellent illustration of God’s grace. We come to Him looking for what we need to live, to live eternally. He gives us what we need and when we try to pay Him for it, He does the same to us as Joseph did to his brothers. Everything we try to offer God comes back to us. He says, “I have given you all this, because Jesus Christ paid the price, your payment has already been received.”

Joseph is referred to as a type or shadow of Christ. This is one reason why. No matter what I try to offer God, I cannot out-give Him. His generosity is overwhelming.

God rewards His people because of His grace. I can do nothing to earn or deserve His blessings, yet at the same time, there are blessed consequences for doing His will, for living as He directs. This simple verse also caught my eye today: “The words of a wise man’s mouth win him favor, but the lips of a fool consume him.” (Ecclesiastes 10:12)

When I talk like a fool, my words eat me up and spit me out. When I listen to God and speak as He directs, I’m blessed, often by the people around me because they like what they are hearing. Even though obedience brings good results, this too is grace. God blesses me because He loves to bless me, not because I deserve it.

Two NT verses catch my eye also. The first one reminds me of a sermon we heard nearly a month ago. It tells how those who practice obedience as a habit are far more discerning than those who do not. “Solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” (Hebrews 5:14)

Such practice trains God’s people and builds our understanding. As that happens, we become more mature (like Jesus) and in that maturity, we are better able to distinguish good from evil. Again, grace is free yet obedience brings good results.

The same author who wrote that verse also wrote this passage: “For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do. And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” (Hebrews 6:10–12)

Even though many of God’s promises are unconditional, He does call me to obedience. He will not forget the work I do in His name, nor will my diligence go unnoticed. I cannot earn my salvation yet grace is always free and not earned. Just knowing that He gives me that freedom is grace, and His grace increases my desire to obey Him. Praise His name!

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