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Close Counts in Horseshoes

Faith is different.

Genesis 47:20–26 (ESV)

So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh, for all the Egyptians sold their fields, because the famine was severe on them. The land became Pharaoh's. As for the people, he made servants of them from one end of Egypt to the other. Only the land of the priests he did not buy, for the priests had a fixed allowance from Pharaoh and lived on the allowance that Pharaoh gave them; therefore they did not sell their land.

Then Joseph said to the people, “Behold, I have this day bought you and your land for Pharaoh. Now here is seed for you, and you shall sow the land. And at the harvests you shall give a fifth to Pharaoh, and four fifths shall be your own, as seed for the field and as food for yourselves and your households, and as food for your little ones.” And they said, “You have saved our lives; may it please my lord, we will be servants to Pharaoh.” So Joseph made it a statute concerning the land of Egypt, and it stands to this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth; the land of the priests alone did not become Pharaoh's.

Despite everything that has transpired, Pharaoh still supports the Egyptian priests.

They couldn’t interpret his dream. They couldn’t help with the famine. They don’t seem useful for anything. Yet they are the only Egyptians that end up with any land. Obviously, Pharaoh’s understanding falls short of full religious conversion.

This is a recurring theme in the Bible. Many people seem to “get it,” but they’re only friends of God’s kingdom—not members. They won’t commit to the “full Rahab” and go all in for God. This is, for example, the difference between Elimelech and Ruth. Ruth puts everything on the line for the LORD, but Elimelech bolts Israel at the first sign of famine.

Close counts in horseshoes, not faith.

We have the same problem today. Many so-called Christians are merely friendly with Christianity. They wear the symbols and talk the talk, but they’re not really committed. They would never make a big sacrifice or take a risk for Jesus. They don’t see their sin. They aren’t horrified by their sin. They don’t think they need help. They think everything is just hunky dory—but it’s not. They shouldn’t be surprised when Jesus ultimately says to them, “I never knew you.

It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows. — Epictetus

That’s a wise saying, but it doesn’t exactly apply to saving faith. Weak Christians generally are destined to eternal life; they will grow in their commitment to what they thought they were already fully committed to. Our task is to seek out and help these people.

But there’s one more twist. These people are easy to find; just look in the mirror. You and I are not as fully committed as we can be either. There are countless levels of sanctification.

Those levels are more about being “all in” than they are about improved behavior.

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These weekday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay. Saturdays' by Matt Richardson. Subscribe here:

The weekly study guides, which include questions for discussion or meditation, are here:

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NASB stands for the New American Standard Bible. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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