FEBRUARY 17, 2022 BY IAN GREIG
The Living Word study for Sunday, February 20 (TWL07C)
Theme: Three perspectives on radically different kingdom relationships
OT Psalm 37:1–11, 39–40
OT Genesis 45:3–11,15 — Joseph gently reveals himself to his brothers
NT gospel Luke 6:27–38 — Jesus teaches love for those that do not love us
NT letter 1 Cor. 15:35–38, 42–50 — Understanding the new resurrection body
• See also this week’s linked article How the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit is Gained — and lost
Psalm 37:1–11, 39–40 — Setting the scene: Righteous relationships with God and with others
1 Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong;
2 for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.
3 Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
4 Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this:
6 He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.
7 Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.
8 Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret — it leads only to evil.
9 For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.
10 A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found.
11 But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy peace and prosperity.
39 The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; He is their stronghold in time of trouble.
40 The Lord helps them and delivers them; He delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in Him.
Genesis 45:3–11,15 — Joseph gently reveals himself to his brothers
Emphasising God’s plan in his life, he forgives them and they are reconciled
3 Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph! Is my father still living?” But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence.
“I am Joseph” — spoken in Hebrew, not Egyptian. The brothers are terrified, understandably, that this Egyptian lord identifies as the brother they sold into slavery.
4–5 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.
“Do not be distressed” — beginning a passionate speech, Joseph calms the fears of his brothers while continually pointing to God’s plan and purpose in the turmoil of the past.
6–7 “For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no ploughing and reaping. But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.
“For two years now” — Joseph is now 39 years old, Genesis 41:46, 53.
8 “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt.
“Father” — this was an Egyptian title given to those of high rank and priests.”
“Not you who sent me here, but God” — the high point in the story of Joseph and a strong statement about the sovereignty of God in human events. A spiritual understanding and trusting of God’s will opens the way to forgiveness and reconciliation.
9–11 “Now hurry back to my father and say to him, ‘This is what your son Joseph says: God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; don’t delay. You shall live in the region of Goshen and be near me — you, your children and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and all you have. I will provide for you there, because five years of famine are still to come. Otherwise you and your household and all who belong to you will become destitute.”
“You shall live in… Goshen” — a desirable, fertile area east of the Nile delta.
15 And he kissed all his brothers and wept over them. Afterward his brothers talked with him.
“Talked with him” — reunited in friendship after 20 years.
SUMMARY This is the high point of Joseph‘s story 20 years after his jealous brothers sold him into slavery, then a jealous employer had him imprisoned. Now Joseph, ranking highest in the service of the Pharaoh, has managed a stockpile for the enduring famine affecting the whole area, which he foretold. When his brothers come in desperation to buy food, Joseph correctly sees this as part of God’s plan and extends grace to them, leading to reconciliation — and the beginning of a long Hebrew presence in the land.
APPLICATION Joseph is one of the Bible’s outstanding examples of someone who suffered injustice, trusted God in having a higher purpose, and rose above it. Bad things do sometimes happen to good people as part of God’s higher plan and purpose; Joseph’s God-given gifts saved Egypt and his family from economic and humanitarian disaster. He stands as a model for the forgiveness and reconciliation which for us is part of how we live out the gospel.
QUESTION How does Joseph and his story speak to situation we meet in life today?
Luke 6:27–38 — Jesus teaches love for those that do not love us
Even selfish people help where it will be rewarded but we can go much further
27–29 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.
“Love your enemies” — reversing the usual teaching in the ancient world to love family and friends and hate enemies, this is understanding God’s grace to us and extending it to others.
“Bless those who curse you” — persecution for the ‘wrong’ beliefs was common then and has persisted through the ages.
“If someone slaps you… takes your coat” — insulting, demeaning behaviour.
30–31 “Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
“Do to others as” — a version of this Golden Rule appears in many religious and philosophical traditions as well as the “Love your neighbour as yourself,” of Jewish law, Lev. 19:18. Jesus uniquely applies “others” to friends and adversaries alike.
32–34 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full.
“Love… do good… lend” — even thoroughly bad people help those who help them.
35–36 “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
“Without expecting… anything” — but God’s love and goodness is merciful and without condition. Imitating God by extending grace to those who do not deserve it is living as children of the Most High or people of the covenant.
37–38 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
“Do not condemn” — cultivating a generous spirit, forgiving and not condemning, is an attitude which God will richly bless.
SUMMARY Jesus began His teaching by setting out in a general way how ‘opposite’ the values of the kingdom of God are to the world’s values. Now He addresses those differences specifically in terms of how we relate to one another. Even selfish, evil people do good to those who they think will return the favour. Kingdom people must go further than that, and be ready to do good to those who won’t. Furthermore, when we experience mistreatment and insult, “loving our enemies” means returning the curse of their words and actions by blessing them.
APPLICATION The gracious generosity of spirit that Jesus advocates is about lending with no thought of getting anything back; and then, when it all goes wrong, choosing to forgive and not pass judgment.
QUESTION How is what Jesus teaches actually possible? Looking ahead, what change will His followers experience that enables them?
1 Cor. 15:35–38, 42–50 — Understanding the new resurrection body
We will receive the spiritual, ncorruptible body needed for the coming kingdom
35 But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?”
“Someone will ask” — writers of this period often raised rhetorical questions from imaginary opponents.
36–38 How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. But God gives it a body as He has determined, and to each kind of seed He gives its own body.
“When you sow” — a farming picture where each recognisable kind of seed dies in the ground before producing the new and different body of the plant the seed belongs to.
42–44 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.
“Sown in dishonour… raised in glory” — Paul applies the analogy to the resurrection of the dead, drawing a contrast between human bodies which are weak, mortal and natural and resurrection bodies which are divinely empowered, immortal and spiritual.
45–47 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven.
“The first… Adam… the last Adam” — as the Spirit of God breathed life into the first Adam, Genesis 2:7, so now Jesus, the second Adam, breathes life into His people.
48–49 As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.
“We shall bear the image of the heavenly man” — as humans we shared the form of the man created out of earth’s dust; as those belonging to Jesus we shall experience the kingdom of God in resurrection bodies like His.
50 I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.
“Flesh and blood cannot inherit” — just as the kingdom of God can only be seen with spiritual eyes, only a resurrected spiritual and incorruptible body can experience the kingdom of God in all its fullness, John 4:24.
SUMMARY Paul poses a rhetorical question about what we will look like when we are resurrected. Using a farming analogy, He explains that the same plant looks different when it is a seed and when sprouts and grows. Similarly as humans we have something of the look of the first man, Adam, but when we are resurrected we will have a spiritual incorruptible body more like the risen Jesus.
APPLICATION For the earthly body, taking after Adam, the all-important relationship with God, comes through believing and receiving Jesus and becoming part of His kingdom, here on Earth but living in anticipation of His return. The spiritual resurrected body already has a relationship with God, because it is through Jesus that we have come into eternal life and the bodily resurrection we will experience the on the last day as the fullness of the Lord’s kingdom comes about.
QUESTION Why was this a question many were asking in the first century church? How does it focus our thoughts in the 21st century?
PRAYER O God, we thank you so much for Your grace and merciful forgiveness shown to us whereby through Jesus we can know You, Creator of the universe, as “Father”.
Help us to have a generous spirit towards others and extend to them the same grace which we ourselves have received.
Empower us to forgive those who have wronged us, to bless those continue to hurt us, and to be ready to give to others with no expectation of repayment.
May we join You in building Your kingdom and showing its values — not by striving, but rather flowing in your gracious spiritual enabling. Through Jesus Christ we ask this, Amen.
The Living Word for February 20, 2022, is a non-denominational Bible study which relies on the Bible explaining the Bible, uninfluenced by any church’s traditions or preferences, and following the Bible’s own sequence of progressive revelation. Read the whole passage first and let the Holy Spirit begin speaking to you through it, then go deeper with the verse by verse commentary and reflections. The week’s readings are as set by the Revised Common Lectionary, an inter-denominational resource shared by many different churches and chapels. The Bible version, widely used in contemporary churches, is the NIV © Biblica. Ref. TLW07C
PRINT EDITION There’s a PDF print edition produced as a convenient Bible-sized folder which downloads from the link below. Permission given to copy for your own use, home group, or discipling use in the church generally.