As I sat in church Sunday morning at Light Of Life Baptist Church in Woodfin, NC, listening to the wonderful message by pastor Mark Crowder, I began jotting down some thoughts as the Lord gave them to me. He had mentioned Samuel and then Esther. I began to think about folks in the bible that went through great afflictions but afterward or in the midst of their trouble were greatly blessed. I preached on this thought when I went back on Sunday night. I hope you don’t mind if I rehash some of it to you because it was of great encouragement to me when the Lord gave it to me. I know some of you are going through some great trials right now so maybe it will be a blessing to you.
I can’t possibly cover all of the folks in the bible that went through this but I want to name about half a dozen real quick. We will just go in chronological order as they appear in the bible. First we would have to look at Abraham in Genesis chapter 12. He kind of brought some of his afflictions on himself when he first left Haran. God told him to leave his father’s house and his country, and his kindred. If you look in verse 4 you will see where he messed up; no where did God tell him to take Lot. In 13:6 we find that the land could not bear all the flocks of both men. Lot came up with the idea that they separate and he chose the well watered plains and left Abram the not so great land. That was just the start of Abrams problems with Lot. In 14:12 Lot was captured in a takeover by King Chedorlaomer and his group. Abram went and recaptured him and the other captives with 318 of his armed servants. We know the story of Sodom and Gomorrah and their destruction by the Lord and how that Abraham interceded on behalf of the cities in chapter 18. Again he was rescuing Lot. Prior to that his afflictions also included the events with Hagar in chapter 16 and the strife between her and Sarai when Abram listened to his wife’s advice and didn’t wait upon the Lord. Abram done all of this despite the fact that in chapters 13, 15, and 17 God made and confirmed his covenant with Abram even changing his and Sarai’s names in chapter 17. Abraham was a lot like us in that his impatience sometimes got in the way of his blessings. But God in his mercy continued to bless him even in his afflictions and in 1948 Israel became a nation recognized by the world. Out of afflictions come great blessings.
The next would be Joseph, the oldest son of his father’s favorite wife. He was hated by his brothers, cast in a pit, sold to passing merchants, sold as a slave in Egypt, lied on by Potiphar’s wife, cast into prison, forgotten by a butler and baker, and finally remembered by the butler in chapter 41. He then, after his release at thirty years old, found favor with the king and began to rise through the political ranks to become the most powerful man in the country, second in power only to the king. All the afflictions and false accusations and imprisonment through no fault of his own, it would seem that he had also been forgotten by God. That wasn’t the case. A famine arose all over the earth as Joseph had predicted when he interpreted a dream of the king, so Joseph opened the storehouses of Egypt because he had been gathering corn and storing it in preparation. During his rise to power, God had blessed him with a wife and two sons. To make a long story short, he was on the throne and sold corn to his brothers and eventually got his family to move to Egypt and settle in Goshen after he made himself known to his brothers. In Genesis 50:20, Joseph summed up his whole life to his brothers by saying “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring it to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” Not only had Joseph endured the afflictions, but God began to bless him immediately upon his release from prison. He gave him a family and even reunited him with his father and brothers which he never expected to happen. We just have to be faithful and obedient to God through it all even though we may not like or understand it. Out of afflictions come great blessings.
Next I want to mention Moses and his momma. I will start with his mom. Imagine what she went through. She was pregnant at a time when the pharaoh of Egypt had issued an order for midwives to kill all newborn baby boys born to the Hebrews. She had made it through the pregnancy, hid her baby for three months, put him in a basket in the river with his sister on guard to watch him, only to have him found by Pharaoh’s daughter. It may have seemed like it just wasn’t fair after all those months of struggle that this would happen and she still lost her baby. Then she caught somewhat of a break. Pharoh’s daughter needed a Hebrew woman to nurse the baby. Miriam showed up and volunteered Moses’ mom to do the job. Every day she had to spend a lot of time in the Egyptian palace with her baby and could not tell anyone what she was doing for fear of being found out. Probably for several years of his life she may have been his “nanny” and couldn’t even tell him. Then one day when he is around forty, this possible heir to the throne kills an Egyptian for beating a Hebrew and now the royal prince is a wanted fugitive and runs away to the backside of the desert. His mother has no idea what has become of him and it would seem that all of her efforts were in vain. Surely she must have felt dejected and abandoned by God. Meanwhile, on the backside of the desert, a bush begins to burn and an eighty year old shepherd notices that it isn’t consumed. Unknown to his mother in Egypt, her baby boy is alive and well with a family and feeding his father in law’s sheep. We know the story of how God spoke to him out of the bush and sent him to Egypt to lead the children of Israel out of bondage which eventually happened. The sad thing is that we don’t know if his mom was still alive at this time. She may have died with a broken heart, not knowing the great blessing that God was about to give her nation through her affliction. Moses afflictions in life in the wilderness are well documented and because of Israel’s murmuring and his temper, he didn’t get to take them into the promised land but God buried him on a mountain and no one knows where. Out of afflictions come great blessings.
Next we have Joshua and Caleb. Faithful spies that tried to lead Israel into the promised land amid bad reports from the other spies. To make a long story a little shorter, they wound up for their faithfulness, having to endure an extra forty years in the wilderness because of the children of Israel’s refusal to go claim the promised land. Imagine their frustration after having been gone from their families forty days hiking throughout the promised land thinking they were soon going to be the new inhabitants of it. Then to get back to camp and have everyone talk about stoning them and wanting to return to Egypt. And then to have to spend the next forty years leading the same people that knocked you out of God’s blessings. That is not an easy thing to do. I have had to stand and preach to people that I knew were refusing the will of God and causing my family and me great heartache not to mention jeopardizing the spiritual well-being of an entire community. It takes time and the grace of God to get past that without getting in the flesh. In those situations you want to get in the flesh and fight and try to beat some sense into people but God won’t allow that and instead you have to try to love them. Eventually after all of your efforts, they rip your heart out and send you home to heal on your own or die spiritually. Out of afflictions come great blessings.
Now we will talk about one of my favorite women from the bible; Hannah. To understand the story of Hannah, you have to understand the culture of the day. For a woman to be unable to give her husband children, and especially a man child, was a great reproach unto her. She was viewed as less than a woman and was subject to ridicule. Fortunately things have changed and women that for whatever reason aren’t able to bear children are viewed more with love and compassion and pity than scorn and ridicule. Hannah’s husband Elkanah loved her anyway but his other wife Peninnah provoked her sore and made her fret so bad that she cried and wouldn’t eat and was in bitterness of soul. This torment happened every year when they went to the temple to give their sacrifices. Can you imagine enduring that kind of ridicule over something that you can’t do anything about. I have always tried to be very careful with comments about weight and height or glasses and stuff of that nature because they can be very hurtful. Here she was trying to do right and was constantly being afflicted. She was blessed with an understanding husband but she wanted a baby. If that wasn’t bad enough, the priest accused her of being drunk in the temple simply because she was praying silently to the Lord. She had to be discouraged. Little did she know how God was about to bless her. She had no way of knowing that her man child that she lent back to the Lord would be a priest and prophet for the whole nation of Israel and that he would also anoint the greatest King that Israel has ever known. She also had no way of knowing that in chapter 2 she would be found rejoicing and praising God for her man child, but he also wound up giving her three more sons and two daughters. Out of afflictions come great blessings.
The last one I want to look at is Esther. She had a boatload of afflictions of her own but her story is centered more on the affliction of the Israelites. Think about her for a minute though. Here is a beautiful young woman being cared for by her first cousin because her mom and dad are both dead and apparently she has no siblings. Her cousin takes her in and ends up getting her in a competition to be the next queen. She wins and about the time she thinks her ship has come in, everything that can go wrong does. She gets word from her cousin that there is a decree sent out by Haman with the king’s authority, that on a certain day all the Jews will be slaughtered. That sounds familiar doesn’t it, we all remember Hitler? Her cousin tells her that she must go before the king on behalf of her people. By custom, to approach the king without permission can be certain death. To expose herself as being a Jew could also bring about her demise or possibly get her dethroned. Her cousin tells her that God may have brought her to the throne “for such a time as this”. The story winds up that not only does the king grant her request and spare her people, but the culprit that worked to bring about their death, was hung with his family from the same gallows that he had built for her cousin. She didn’t think of only herself and say to her cousin Mordecai “after all I’ve been through in my life, you want me to risk it all for a bunch of people who I don’t even know, no way!” Instead she had asked them to fast and after they had, she done what she had to do. Out of afflictions come great blessings.
I want to finish by mentioning just a few words to you and how many times they are in the bible; afflicted 55, oppressed 38, burdened 2, weak 46, heavy 40, hard 45, and heavy laden 1 time. All of those total up to equal 227 times. The word “blessed” is in the bible 302 times. There are a lot more blessings than all of these other words combined. A question is asked in Genesis 18:14 “Is any thing too hard for the Lord?” God asks it again in Jeremiah 32:27. Jeremiah had already answered it in verse 17 “…there is nothing too hard for thee.” Can I say it one more time? Out of afflictions come great blessings. Have a blessed day in the Lord!!!