A Just Man

In Matthew 1:18-19 concerning the virgin birth of Mary, Joseph was referred to as ‘a just man’ (‘And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.’)

What does it mean to be called ‘just’? Such a phrase usually refers to a person who obeys the law and applies rules fairly to all. From the context in that passage, the book of Deuteronomy 22:23 states that, ‘If a betrothed virgin meets a man in the city and lies with him, the two of them are to be stoned.’

But Matthew 1:18-19 affirms that, because Joseph was ‘just’, he decided to break the law of Moses and divorce Mary quietly rather than shame her. He extended mercy and grace.

Interesting.

Isaiah the prophet painted a prophetic picture of a suffering Servant through whom God would one day act in history to save. There are four unique songs in Isaiah describing this. The first is in Isaiah 42:3, ‘A bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice.’

Justice, as understood here, is neither ‘retributive justice’ (I do unto you what you do to me), nor is it ‘equal application of law’ (If this happens to me, it must happen to you too). But it means compassion for the weak and exhausted. Joseph looked beyond the penalties of the law in order to reach out with tenderness to a young woman who was no doubt bruised and weak. She was vulnerable. Perhaps he saw Mary as a ‘dimly burning wick’.

This prophetic definition of justice required a compassionate concern for the weak, the downtrodden, in their need. In his dealings with Mary, Joseph acted out of this prophetic definition of justice without which Jesus would not have been born.

People usually talk about Mary and her courage, but the one I truly respect here is Joseph. He was a just and courageous man, not passive but bold! He was a man who feared God, whose heart overflowed with grace and mercy, whose bold decision at a point of crisis saved the life of the mother and her unborn child.

I think I better understand Micah 6:8 now when it says, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

How can we be just in this day and age? Perhaps the first step is to ask the Lord to open our eyes to the brokenness of the world and see those around us who need kindness to be extended to them.

Justice might come in the form of supporting an overwhelmed single parent struggling to find the time and resources for his or her children. Or perhaps justice takes the form of caring for a foster child. Justice is also extending kindness to someone who repeatedly falls and is trying to get back up on his feet. Being just is connected with loving mercy and kindness and walking humbly.

Help us, Father, to be faithful in this. Every man, woman and child has been created in Your image with dignity and worth. Help us to relate to one another in this world as fellow image bearers, showing grace to those with whom we differ, demonstrating love even, and especially to our enemies, thereby fulfilling the law of Christ.


Asst. Pastor Elijah Chan

A Lamb For Every Household

It was with great joy and gratitude to the Lord that I witnessed the baptism of my father recently. When I first got saved 23 years ago, I was the first believer in my family. My parents were of another faith and were really upset with me when I got water baptised. But I’m so glad they both gave their lives to the Lord and are water baptised.

Maybe some of us have been praying for years – and even decades – for our family’s salvation. Being amidst brokenness and sin at home, it can often seem like our prayers are not being answered. There were moments I felt this way. It was a long, tough journey for me and I learned some valuable lessons along the way.

A vital lesson is that God wasn’t just dealing with my family read more…

When Daddy Is Angry

The Apostle Paul painted two sides to God’s character in Romans 11:22, ‘Consider then the goodness and severity of God…’ We’re often familiar with the goodness of God – singing and reciting “God is good all the time.” But let’s also consider His sternness. If we want to truly know who God is, and not simply have a self-conceived image of Him, we need to consider both His goodness and severity, His mercy and judgment, His love and wrath. 

It’s hard to relate to a God who’s angry, as anger is a human emotion and a mostly negative one. Divine anger is not the same as human anger. God is slow to anger (Exodus 34:6) and allows us the chance and time to change, as seen in Romans 2:4 – ‘Do you think lightly of the riches of his kindness and tolerance and read more…

Sing, O Barren!

Scripture is full of paradoxes. The poor are made rich, the weak strong, the humble lifted up. In reading the Word, we’re continually confronted with real life stories of situations which are downright shocking.

Seas and rivers part. City walls fall flat. Donkeys talk. Magi from distant lands travel for months following a star representing the arrival of a long-awaited Lord and King, only to find him wrapped in strips of cloth, a baby bedded in an animal’s feeding trough. And all of these examples pale before the anomaly of the Cross.

This past year has also been rife with paradoxes. With churches closing their doors and physical gatherings prohibited or scaled down, one would have predicted a drop in membership and a dramatic decline in offerings. While challenges and hardships have been real, we now have the benefit of read more…

My Running Craze

Can I be obsessive? For sure. In fact, when I get into something, I’m often obsessive about it. My latest obsession has to do with running. Now, if you know anything about me, I hate running. It was my bane during the time I was doing my military service.

You see, long-distance running is pure torture. It isn’t a short stab of pain but a numbing continuous agony that needs to be sustained for a long time. Yet I’ve taken to running with a vengeance in the last couple of weeks, clocking anywhere between 25-35km a week.

While my timing isn’t anything to brag about, I’ve discovered somewhat of a joy in running at a steady pace for a longer period of time.
 
Let me romanticise about running, about how it mirrors life and the needed elements read more…

The Broken-down Wall

It’s a time of festivities with Chinese New Year and Valentine’s Day over this weekend, but celebrations will be muted because of the continued Covid restrictions.

Should I reflect upon culture, tradition, family, love, but I was thinking about the broken-down wall. Perhaps there has been complacency, too much feasting when God is looking to build, reinforce and strengthen the wall of His Church and the believer in this time.

It has often been proposed that the Church should be without walls and we might have heard this comment that when a wall is erected, it will keep people out.

God loves and has great compassion for the person on the other side of the wall and we need to re-process if we think we’ve erected the wall to keep them out! If we understand anything of God’s heart, we read more…

Grace From The ‘Begats’

Like many of you, I’ve been on the #365 Bible Reading Plan. And as usual, when I came to Matthew 1, I was stumped by a whole list of genealogies. To be honest, this is where I’d usually flip the pages and skip the boring parts altogether (I’m sure I’m not the only one!).

As modern readers, our eyes would glaze over, and we’d ask, “When are we going to get to some action?” We don’t understand the significance of genealogies today, but people back then did. It was common practice to publicise one’s genealogy because they were proud of their ancestry and where they came from.

And it was your genealogy, not résumé, that determined if you had a place in the world. Today, we live in a highly individualistic society in which all that matters is what you read more…

Love God, Love Your Neighbour, Love Your Enemies

One of the most-talked-about subjects of the Bible is love. In fact, Jesus said that we identify ourselves as His disciples through the way we love people. We don’t prove who we are by the greatness of our faith or the number of miracles we perform, but by the way we love others.

It’s easy to love those who are nice, humble, lovely, and kind. We spend much time loving these people because of the ease of it. As a result, we sometimes come to think that we’ve lived out the command to love our neighbours pretty well.

But recently, the realisation hit me that I was unconsciously avoiding the ones that I don’t understand, those who are different from me, and the ones who weirded me out. I definitely wasn’t rude to them, but I haven’t engaged them the read more…

Huh? Work On My Weakness?

At the start of the year, like all prophetic believers, we asked what the word of the Lord was for 2021. I started the year with our three days of churchwide prayer and fasting, followed by 18 days of prayer – all pumped up and excited to hear what the Lord had to say.

Every new year, I’d resolve to do something different – like learning a new skill, a sport or try something new and outside my comfort zone. In 2018, I tried open water diving, under the persuasion of a pastor friend. I was almost scared to death, if not for a good and experienced dive master. I went mountain climbing in 2019, injured my knee and took a year to recover with the help of a physical trainer.

Last year, during the lockdown, I picked up cooking, learning read more…

A Man of the Spirit

As we turn the corner to a new decade, it’s a great time to affirm our commitment to things that really matter. At Cornerstone, we don’t want to be a people who merely ‘talk the talk’, we want to be people who are born of, filled with, and walk in the Spirit.
 
Some four million Jews spread throughout the Roman Empire at the time of Jesus’ birth. Sects and schools arosing within Judaism memorised huge portions of Scripture. Until that time, no generation had a greater expectation that the Messiah’s visitation was at hand. Prophecies were diligently studied, theories and timelines were drawn up, groups formed isolated communities to wait for the Christ. 

And yet the first person to recognise Jesus did not study under any famous rabbi nor join any elite school. Simeon was an old read more…

Rehearsing Our Beginnings

One of my life-long emphasis is PURPOSE. What’s the purpose of my life? What am I supposed to do? What’s my destiny? Perhaps more understandable – what’s the destination that God has for me?

More than 34 years ago, I began earnestly asking if there’s a point to my life. I was perhaps 11 years old, but even then, I needed to know that there was more to life than just sustenance and existence.

I spent countless hours wandering in the recesses of my mind asking questions. I often wondered where my consciousness would go when I die. Does it just get snuffed out or does it drift onwards in the emptiness of space and time?

Even there, I intuitively sensed that my consciousness was somehow eternal. I wondered also if I was a read more…

What A Year 2020 Has Been!

I’ve been in full-time ministry for 30 years, and in all those 30 years, three clearly stood out as being earth-shaking.
 
The first was 2001. What happened? 9/11. When those planes struck the World Trade Center in New York City, the world we knew changed forever. And I remember the exact moment I heard the news. Time stopped for me as I watched the horror of those twin towers collapsing. Life was never going to be the same again.

A war followed shortly. Stock markets around the world crashed. Fear was all around. The Middle East was in turmoil. Security ramped up around the world. The new normal was long queues at airports, tight airport security, restrictions. But we learned to make adjustments, and live with inconveniences because life had to go on.
 
The read more…

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