Posts Tagged ‘Genesis’

Genesis 50 

15 When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “What if Joseph holds a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrongs we did to him?” 16 So they sent word to Joseph, saying, “Your father left these instructions before he died: 17 ‘This is what you are to say to Joseph: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.’ Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.” When their message came to him, Joseph wept.

 19 But Joseph said to them, “Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? 20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. 21 So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.

24 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die. But God will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land to the land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”

Death.  Fear.  Insecurity.  Sorrow.  Conspiracy.  Deception.  Paranoia.  The abuse of power.

Sympathy.  Compassion.  Humility.  Graciousness.  Generosity.  Trust.  Reliance.

The Kingdom of this world, contrasted starkly with the Kingdom of God.

Joseph’s brothers have been dependent on their shared connection with Joseph to Jacob for security from Joseph’s wrath.  The atrocities of their youth have followed them for decades now, and they have not accepted the forgiveness that Joseph gave them before, when they came to him as a governor.  They have refused to let go, they have refused to lay back into the mercy God gave to Joseph.  They are captured in the hell of their choosing.  Why?  Because they haven’t understood God.

Joseph has experienced comfort and strength in God.  He has trusted in God, and God has shown Joseph his calling in Egypt.  Joseph has known peace and purpose in being able to literally save a generation of people with the wisdom of God.  Joseph tells his brothers, now, as before when they were reconciled; “What you intended for harm God has made for good!  I have saved many lives!”  For Joseph, the Kingdom of Heaven is very near.  He is living harmoniously with his neighbors, and communing with God, fulfilling his calling dutifully and without prejudice.

But the brothers expect vengeance.  The brothers expect a return on their cruelty.  Even now, after decades of Joseph’s generosity, they can imagine only pretense and falsehood.  Now they are genuinely afraid.  They are self-interested and self-absorbed.  Conspiracy and deception are the places they toss and turn at night, imagining the depth of Joseph’s hatred, building the prison cells and torture chambers that Joseph has secreted away, waiting for the day.

Because they have not understood God.

Have we accepted God?  Or do we hide in the dark corners, afraid of the Judge, imagining the litany of sins that He might read to us?  Do we fear his wrath?

I may deserve His wrath, just as Joseph’s brother’s surely did not deserve anything but Joseph’s wrath for hating him, for plotting against him, threatening him with death, and selling him off to foreign traders.

But Joseph saw past the sins.  Joseph chose to be gracious.  And that is something he learned from God.  We don’t see where, we don’t see how.  But God has surely shown Joseph the same thing He has been lobbying you and me with- the desire to show mercy.

I wonder if Joseph saw through it all that time.  If he knew that his brother’s still did not trust him.  I wonder if he gave the lavish meals, the good pastures for their flocks, gave them all of the good things that Egypt and Pharaoh offered them, and all along, saw the distrust in their eyes.

But he kept giving it to them.  He never stopped giving it to them.

And then he blessed them.

There’s an interesting contrast, when Joseph says in verse 21, “Don’t be afraid, I will provide for you, and your children.”  And then a few verses later, he says “I am about to die- but God will surely come to your aid…”

Joseph has done everything he can to show the depth of his forgiveness to his brothers.  But even Joseph will die.  But do not be afraid, because though I die, God does not- He will surely come to your aid.

Where does Joseph get this generosity?  This courage?  The depth of faith to lie on his deathbed and rely on God?

He has experienced it himself.  He has seen God’s promises, known God’s love, felt the arms of God’s compassion.

God has shown Joseph love that doesn’t stop loving, gifts that are sourced in the desire to give and the generosity of the Giver, not the merit of earner, and grace that is ruled by grace, not ruled by a fickle temper.

Joseph is a mirror for God.  Cast aside, sold off as rubbish.  Yet rising up to give good things, speak into the darkness of chaos and misunderstanding.  Humbly serving behind the curtain of Pharaoh, and not seeking power, but seeking to serve.  And spending endlessly to convince the darkness that light is present and ready.  Even if the darkness does not see it.  Even if the darkness doesn’t believe.

Joseph is not forgiving his brothers so that they will believe and be forgiven.  He is forgiving his brothers because God has shown him that it is the best way.  It is His own way.

God forgives because it pleases him to forgive.  It makes Him a better God.  And he will continue to offer it to us, even as we turn, even as we refuse, even as we accept it be it uncertain or distrustful.  While it is for us, it serves Him too.

Genesis.  The beginning, but also part of the middle.  And a blurry view of the end.  Not too bad.


Genesis 49

1 Then Jacob called for his sons and said: “Gather around so I can tell you what will happen to you in days to come.
2 “Assemble and listen, sons of Jacob; 
listen to your father Israel.

Michael Simpson wrote a book some time back, an amazing, mind-altering book, called Permission Evangelism.  I’ve had the good fortune to meet him and talk with him a few times, when he’s visited my homechurch, and I continue to be amazed at how God has revealed himself to Michael, and at how Michael has been able to share that experience into other people’s lives- into their experiences.

Last time Michael was in town, he preached an awesome message of God the Father’s love and affection for us.  He gave a testimony about his journey towards discovering and accepting that love.  He had this crazy idea that God loves us through other people.  That our experience of some one person’s love for us is actually the experience of being loved by God, Himself.

He used a great image to help illustrate the concept:  He said God looks into this mirror- He is love, and His reflection, the image of his love, is in this mirror.  Imagine that God has shattered this mirror now- it’s in billions of little bits, each little shard showing a small size view of the whole- the image of God’s love.  And He puts that little shard in each person- each act of love you experience from somebody is a shard- a piece of God’s love for you.

Or at least that’s what I remember him saying.  Whether he said it exactly that way or not- the image is embedded in me now.

When Israel/Jacob gathers his boys around his bed, he delivers this massive, epic blessing(slash)curse.  But what he’s doing is speaking into his son’s lives his experience of God.  He’s handing over the shards to each boy.  Every little “prediction” is somehow a reflection of Jacob’s experience of life with God.  God has shown him at some point in his own life some aspect of himself in creation, and Jacob’s sharing that.  In other words, we see in his blessings the experience of Jacob with God- we see who God has been to Jacob.

In Reuben, God gives evidence of strength.  God gives.  That stands to be said.  And Reuben lives with excellence in character and power.  But we also see how rebellion is rewarded, when the strength and excellence are removed.  Jacob is showing that God is inclined towards blessing first- offering good things first.  When we take those gifts for granted, when we abuse the gifts, then they are subject to review, or retraction.  But God starts with the blessing.

Simeon and Levi are case studies in wisdom and self-control.  Or the lack of it.  God has shown Jacob that reaction, anger and violence are not strength.  God does not value strength as the world understands strength.  God does not value the short-sightedness of quick reactions.  

With Judah, again, Jacob repeats the forceful insistence of God’s blessing!  Judah has kept favor in his life, and the blessings of God are about to open up on him and his family.  Jacob has experienced this same kind of overwhelming flood.  The intensity of God’s affection and the abundance of his pantry is unrivaled, and it is poured out on us.  

There is also in this blessing the subtle reminder of the very first promise of God- to send a deliverer, a conquerer, a king who will not disappoint.

In Zebulon, Jacob tells of God’s harbor.  He speaks of how God has been a safe place to dwell.  A place to hide.  A place to regroup and rehabilitate.

Issachar gains insight from Jacob’s experience of life with God.  It has been difficult.  There have been moments of great effort, of confusion, of not being in control.  But though it has been difficult, it has always been a good place, and worth the work.

Dan.  For Dan, Jacob has a reminder- God’s justice doesn’t always come from the front.  Sometimes you don’t see it coming.  But it’s there.  And if you are riding on something other than the righteousness of God, sometimes the Justice that comes can cause the rider to fall.

In Gad, Jacob has experienced a sort of redemption.  Jacob tells Gad that sometimes it seems like a loss, sometimes it seems like a storm that will sweep you away.  But as it is written, joy comes in the morning.  There will be times in your life, in your experience when the onslaught seems to overwhelm, but you will revive your strength, you will arise again.  You will not be beaten.

Jacob has experienced richness and pleasure in God.  It’s interesting to me that Asher’s blessing isn’t so much to experience that richness, but rather, he will serve it to others.  A blessing in it’s own right.  Is it not gratifying to be a source of immense pleasure for somebody else?  That is the blessing Asher receives, and it speaks to Jacob’s experience of pleasing God, and being a source of pleasure!

Naphtali is a doe set free that bears beautiful fauns.  What an image!  Jacob is drawing on the experience he has had of being at peace with his creator within His creation.  Beautiful and resplendent!  Serene and prolific.  There is freedom, and LIFE.  And it grows.  It expands.  It continues.

And Joseph- the blessings for Joseph are almost too overwhelming.  He is a climbing vine, a source of envy for others, strong despite attack from outside, calm, not intimidated.  He is in the arms of the Mighty One, He is within the crook of the Greatest Shepherd, and his foot rests upon the Rock of God.  He is the recipient of all the blessings of God, “Blessing of the skies above, blessings of the deep springs below, blessings of the breast and the womb.”  I’m pretty sure that’s about everything.

One cannot give a blessing that he has not himself experienced.  How could he describe it?  How could be have the strength and wherewithal to offer it, had he no grasp of it himself?

These blessings show Jacob’s experience with God.  Jacob’s experience with God gives us insight into God’s character.

And God’s character has not diminished or changed since Jacob’s lifetime.  All the blessings above are still available, still a part of God’s cornucopia.  He paints in your life with the exact same palette of colors.  The same selection of brushes.  And the Artists desires to paint the same sorts of paintings.  In our lives.  

What are the shards in your experience?  How have you been loved?  How many shards of that first image of love have you looked into?

Genesis 48

11 Israel said to Joseph, “I never expected to see your face again, and now God has allowed me to see your children too.”

15 Then he blessed Joseph and said,
   “May the God before whom my fathers 
Abraham and Isaac walked faithfully,

the God who has been my shepherd 
all my life to this day,

16 the Angel who has delivered me from all harm 
   —may he bless these boys.

May they be called by my name 
and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac, 
and may they increase greatly 
on the earth.”

Genesis is a beginning.  Literally.  Genesis opens with the phrase “In the beginning,” or “At first.”  But as is often the case the beginning is … just the first thing in a series of many things.  So Genesis is a beginning, and it’s a journey- a middle.

We’ve met lots of people- Adam and Eve, Cain, Abel, Seth, Noah, Abram, Sarai, Lot, Lot’s daughters, Isaac, Isaac’s servant, Jacob, Esau, Laban, Rachel, Leah, Rueben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, (and Tamar), Zebulun, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Joseph and Benjamin.  We’ve met Potipher, the Egyptian Royal captain, and his cougar-wife.  We’ve met a royal baker, and a royal cup-bearer.  Pharaoh himself.  But he’s not the first king- we’ve also met the mysterious Malchizekek.

But we’ve also met somebody else.  Creator God, who speaks and creates, and hovers over unformed things.  Creator God who builds and creates and proliferates LIFE.  God, who walks in the garden in the cool of the afternoon relishing what He finds to be very good.  An all-powerful God who creates a community to spend time with, and enjoy.  An all powerful God who makes us free to love Him back, or … not.

The God who sews garments to cover up something He made good, because of the fear that sin created.  The God who, when disobeyed, rather than retaliate and answer in wrath, promises to set things right, and keeps things from getting any worse.  The angel with the sword flashing back and forth between us and the Garden of Eden.

We meet his presence in angels- messengers.  Messengers who come to break through the barriers and communicate God’s promises, over and over.  Despite rebellion.  Despite disbelief.

And we meet God, a shepherd.

As Israel lays in his bed, he places himself in the role of a sheep- and tells Joseph that God has been his shepherd.

After all the things Israel has experienced, after all the different ways He has experienced God, and God’s presence in his life, this is how he describes God.  A shepherd.

The lasting words of God reverberate in that description: I will be with you.

God is introducing himself to you, right now, today.  Not as somebody who will shepherd you.  But as somebody who always has.  God is a shepherd.  He is guiding you to safe places to lie down.  He is choosing ripe, green grass for you.  He finds a place where you can wade in the water and drink without fear of predators, without fear of drowning.  You may wander out of sight, and get lost, get stuck, get tired.  But he is the Good Shepherd and He will come out, leaving the flock to find you.  You will hear his voice, and call to him, and he will pull you from the mud, pull you from the briar- and return you on his shoulders to where you are safe.

This is the God of Genesis.  He’s a fixer.  He’s a lookout.  He’s a shepherd.

Genesis 47:

23 Joseph said to the people, “Now that I have bought you and your land today for Pharaoh, here is seed for you so you can plant the ground. 24 But when the crop comes in, give a fifth of it to Pharaoh. The other four-fifths you may keep as seed for the fields and as food for yourselves and your households and your children.”
 25 “You have saved our lives,” they said. “May we find favor in the eyes of our lord; we will be in bondage to Pharaoh.”
 26 So Joseph established it as a law concerning land in Egypt—still in force today—that a fifth of the produce belongs to Pharaoh. It was only the land of the priests that did not become Pharaoh’s.

27 Now the Israelites settled in Egypt in the region of Goshen. They acquired property there and were fruitful and increased greatly in number.
 28 Jacob lived in Egypt seventeen years, and the years of his life were a hundred and forty-seven. 29 When the time drew near for Israel to die, he called for his son Joseph and said to him, “If I have found favor in your eyes, put your hand under my thigh and promise that you will show me kindness and faithfulness. Do not bury me in Egypt, 30 but when I rest with my fathers, carry me out of Egypt and bury me where they are buried.”
                “I will do as you say,” he said.
 31 “Swear to me,” he said. Then Joseph swore to him, and Israel worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.[d]

The last scenes of Genesis are set.  Jacob, the place on the young tree where the trunk ends, and the branches burst out in array, is leaning on a bedpost, old and ailing.  Jacob, Israel, whose turbulent life crossed the deserts and plains of modern day Syria, Jordan, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt, and crossed paths with God in visions, dreams, and once, in the shadowy form of another man.

God is often perceived as being static, decorous, and formal.  He’s perceived as being distant, prone to commands and cursing, mighty acts of judgement that come from some lofty place.  He is not the friendly grandfather that we see in characters like Santa Claus.  Rather, he’s the grumpy old man at the end of the block who has a barrel full of baseballs that came over the fence, but were abandoned by boys who would sooner go home to get another ball than attempt to recover the long ball from his yard.

But none of that appears in this prospectus on God.

In this first glimpse of God, He and what He has created are very intimate.  God is the woo-er, coming in dreams, coming in smokey visions and revealing who He really is.  Assuring recipients of these visions and dreams that He is good, that He has a special calling and purpose for them, and that it is good.

In a land and culture where the meek must please and satisfy the wants and needs of their gods, the God of the Bible comes to serve and prosper the wants and needs of his people.  In a culture where people sacrifice their animals, and spill their own blood in sacrifices of self-mutilation, we see a God who covenants Himself to a person- walking between the slain animals in an expression of promise with fateful consequences while Abram looking on.

While the peoples around bribe and flatter their gods, the God introduced in the Bible pours blessing out, offering himself in community, saying “I will be with you,”  not “come and be with me.”

And now, we witness His reliability unfolding.  Generations ago, He made a promise to Eve.  Then He told an old man to build a boat, and that he would be a blessing to every family on Earth.  Then He told another old man to not be afraid, that he would a father in his old age.  That he would father nations of nations.  Even though it seemed to take forever, the longer it took the more amazing it became.  And it happened.  

Then, He provided for Isaac a divinely appointed wife, with whom the promises to Abram would continue to blossom.

Not that it was easy.  Not that it was a constant source of pleasure and joy.  But nevertheless and never you mind, despite the many pains and problems that life in a sin-touched world presents, God is faithful to His promises, and Jacob is the place where the stump ends and the branches of the tree spring out.  While the winds shake the tree, rattling every dry leaf and every heavy nut right off, it prospers through dry seasons and pleasant ones.

The promise is still vibrantly alive and expanding.  A boy is born, and through tragedy finds himself able to buffet the crushing waves of famine that would have cut the top off the tree like a tornado.  And by the boys shrewdness and God’s insight, He is able to literally save a generation from death and dryness.

Now, a very, very old and wearied man takes rest in God, leaning upon the head of his bed, and worshipping this faithful God, this God who has loved him when he was running and when he was still.  A God who his father loved and told stories of- stories of a perfectly picked wife, and of a terrifying climb up the mountain Moriah and the most beautiful ram he has ever, ever seen at the most perfect moment.  A grandfather who traveled all over and was shown tremendous grace everywhere he went.

And the stage for the Exodus is being set, where God reintroduces Himself to his own people, to give them new life, again, and to reissue his same promise, again, to be their God and deliverer.

Genesis 46

1 So Israel set out with all that was his,  . . .   2 And God spoke to Israel in a vision at night and said, “Jacob! Jacob!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
  3 “I am God, the God of your father,” he said. “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. 4 I will go down to Egypt with you . . .”

On the road again!  It seems like all of the really amazing things happen to Jacob around the periods of traveling and transition in his life.  And every time he goes somewhere, there’s a vision.  And the vision is always a reminder and assurance of the only promises God ever seems to really feel compelled to make.

In Genesis 28, Jacob was making a “strategic extraction” after he found himself persona non gratis amongst his brother.  I’m sure he was a little scared at the time, because he left with nothing more than a staff and directions to Taco Bell.
But on the way, he has a dream and God astonishes Jacob, telling him “14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth,” and “15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
In Genesis 31, a few pages and 20 years to the right, Jacob is making another “strategic extraction” after hearing his brothers-in-law making some not-so-neighborly remarks in his general direction.  He has more than he arrived with, and can’t move with his typical ninja like stealth.  But God comes, again, with a vision and an assurance that though the times are different, and the circumstances are (a little bit) different, His promise remains the same.  He says to Jacob, “Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.”
Later, God again tells Jacob to move.  He directs Jacob to leave Shechem (where, by the way, there are a LOT of very angry guys waiting to heal up), and move to Beth’el.  God gives Jacob a new name, Israel, and attaches His ongoing promise to proliferate Jacob’s family to that new identity.  “11 And God said to him, “I am God Almighty[f]; be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will be among your descendants. 12 The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you.”

And now, today.  In Genesis 46, Jacob is reveling in his own prodigal son’s return.  A son who was dead is alive.  And an invitation is before him to move again.  God revisits him, repeating the old promise, reassuring Jacob.  3 “I am God, the God of your father,” he said. “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. 4 I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again. And Joseph’s own hand will close your eyes.”

God’s promises to Jacob, regardless of Jacob’s life, regardless of Jacob’s destination, have always been the same.  “I will make a great nation of peoples from your family.”  And “I will be with you.”

God’s promise to me, and to you, isn’t really any different.  It isn’t really any less objective either.  Because it’s God’s promise to us, not the other way around.

He may not be planning to “make a nation” out of your family.  But He does have some function, some purpose, some reason for you.  Some point to your existence.  You have some unique place in the universe that nobody else can adequately fulfill or perform.  And it’s a God-level, Jacob-like degree of ultimate importance we’re talking about.

I don’t think that God’s promises are really all that different from one person to the next.  He promises over and over in Jacob’s life to prosper him- but it is so that he can succeed at God’s purpose for him (which is to make a nation of people- so think lots of name-bearing off-spring.  Like boys).  And He promises over and over to “be with you,” to Jacob.  Repeatedly.

And not just when times get tough.  Not just when times are good.  Not just when Jacob is a good boy.  Usually when he’s not.  This guy, though in his old age seems submitted enough- has led a life of fighting, of friction, of trouble-making, and “strategic extractions.”

This is the God I’m meeting not just in Jacob’s life, but throughout the entire book of Genesis.  That promise of prosperity to fulfill God’s purpose, be it to build a boat, build a people, restore the integrity of His creation- it is repeated in every generation of humanity.  And ours is no different.  Because God is no different.

The God I’m meeting in Genesis made something amazingly, very good.  And He liked it.  He made so many special things, but he made one thing in particular, and gave it something particularly wonderful.  Us.  He said, “Now, let us make man, in our image.”  Everything else was according to its kind.  But this- this will be different.  It will be in our kind.

And when things got sideways, God didn’t give up.  He didn’t give up then, and he’s not given up now.  He says, after Eve had disobeyed, that One will come who will smash the serpent’s head.  That’s a promise.  And he makes that promise in every generation.

Genesis 45

1 Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, “Have everyone leave my presence!” So there was no one with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers. 2 And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and Pharaoh’s household heard about it.
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.


5 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. 6 For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. 7 But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.[a]
 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.


So- finally some good news, here in chapter 45 of Genesis.  Joseph has removed the veil and revealed himself to his brothers.

I didn’t think that reading the bible one chapter at a time would ever be very problematic.  Wrong.  While not a terrible profound observation, it stands to be said every so often just as a reminder: the Bible wasn’t written in chapters and verses.  In fact, what we call the first five books are really just five chapters of one book.  The conventional divisions into 5 distinct books has to do more with the central theme of each section, but they are all dated at about the same time- and have their own name: Pentateuch.  Sort of a subset within the bible.

Well, this is just another lesson in hermeneutics then- sometimes breaking a story up into artificial segments can be detrimental to how we understand the whole story.  And nowhere has that been more evident in Genesis than right here, in Joseph’s story.

Joseph has been gone for at least 9 years.  For a decade, his brothers have been under the mantle of remorse.  Or at least some of them have.  Joseph’s father, the patriarch, Jacob, aka Israel, has been slowly deteriorating under the pain of losing his beautiful Joseph.  Joseph has been a captains right hand, and the focal point of his derision.  He’s lived in relative luxury and in a prison.  He’s known the adrenalin rush of being pursued by a woman- and the fear of standing before the most powerful man in the world, Pharaoh.  He’s been forgotten and he’s been the “father to Pharaoh.”  And now he’s at the end of his considerable emotional rope.

His trials seem to have brought him wisdom.

This is no small victory.  I’m not sure I’d be so fortunate.  Joseph, by today’s standards has every reason to have lost trust in the most sacred things.  He was betrayed and sold into slavery by his own family.  Framed and abandoned by his employer.  Left and forgotten by people he’d been charitable to in prison.  His power would have corrupted a lesser person.  A lesser person might have taken liberty with his power to acquire wealth and security- to prevent the pain and suffering he’d known up to this point from ever happening again.  He might be jaded and permanently untrusting.  He might be inclined to blame God for ten years of being abandoned by family and uncared about, forced to live in a foreign culture with no ties to home.

But no.  In all this time, Joseph’s faith in God’s purpose has caused him to pursue a sort of soterical career.  Even after his own abandonment by family and imprisonment, he is still pursuing other peoples’ peace.

He has spoken truth to the two fellow prisoners.  He gave peace to the Pharaoh about his dreams by clearly giving meaning to the dreams he’d had, and then offers sound wisdom to offset the bad news.  And now, Joseph is giving his brothers peace and forgiveness!  He is telling them that they were doing God’s work by despising him, selling him to a band of strangers, and ultimately into slavery and all that happened to him here in Egypt.  Why?

He’s giving God- this God that we have only heard about in the context of giving meaning to dreams, credit for using Joseph to save a nation’s worth of lives, as well as the lives of his own family.

This, I think, is an almost super-human ability!  Especially when you consider how much time has passed.  I can only speak for myself, but if I get a little down in the mouth for a couple months I start examining my life for places where I’ve let God down.  Maybe that’s not bad, in itself, but when I do that, I start to get blue, and a little mean.  I start thinking naughty thoughts about God- like He’s punishing me (which of course, He’s not, having fully extracted any punishment he must for me from Jesus), or that He’s changed His mind about me (which he doesn’t because nothing can take me from Jesus’ hand).  In short- I get impatient very quickly with God.

Ten years!  Ten years have passed in Joseph’s life.  Have you waited ten years, faithfully, for something?  Anything?  I don’t know that I can honestly say that I have.  At least not in obedience.

There’s plenty here about forgiveness.  There’s plenty here about how family relationships are kinda messy, and sometimes require a frequent and potent bath in the bubble-potion of forgiveness.  But God’s providence is what is on display, and Joseph’s unfailing dependence on it.

God is faithful.  As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, great comfort can come from the simple proverb: “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is God’s purpose that will prevail.”

This may seem obvious- but God has a purpose!  This may seem less obvious at times: God’s purpose is for good!  Joseph declares his joy in this when he tells his brothers not to be troubled by their evil plans, because God caused good to happen!

This is less obvious:  If Joseph had sucked his thumb and pouted while he was in jail, God would have had a much more difficult time getting everything in order.  Joseph set his pain, anger, betrayal down on the floor of his cell and “saw that they were troubled” and set himself to comforting the two fellow prisoners by interpreting their troubling dreams.  Had he never done that- had he never inserted himself as a healer and a comforter into that situation- he would never have stood before Pharaoh to warn him of the coming prosperity that would buffet that following famine!

A simple act of selflessness, on Joseph’s part was a small key in an extremely large lock.  A single act of selflessness was the spark that lit the tinder, that held the ember, that caused a campfire to turn into a forest fire.  And it happened during a rainstorm.  Heck, a monsoon.

That is God’s character.

The Last Word

Posted: February 21, 2012 in Chapter-a-day
Tags: , , ,


Genesis 44

I must confess that the last several chapters- this story of Joseph playing cat and mouse with his siblings is rather torturous.  Is this Joseph playing a somewhat mean-spirited game with his brothers?  Why does Joseph draw this out so long?  Especially given the age of his father, who he hasn’t seen for so long?

He puts on a great show for them, heaping food up in front of them, and making a display out of Benjamin’s plate.  And then he loads them up with food and sends them back home, AGAIN.

But this time, instead of having the steward simply putting their silver back in their sacks again, ostensibly giving them the food for free- this time, he plants a piece of very damning piece of contraband- Joseph’s prized silver chalice.  Why?

The boys are on their journey back home to their father, bags loaded with the grain they’d come for.  They are less than a day’s journey out when their host’s steward catches up with them, all a fury and full of accusations about a missing chalice.  The men, stunned, are appalled at the accusations, reminding the steward that at great personal risk, they returned with twice the silver they needed specifically to keep the air clear between them.

So without resisting they volunteer themselves to grave punishment should they be guilty, and, it says, “quickly lowered” their sacks to be inspected.  I’m sure it was amazing to them that once again, their silver is sitting on TOP of the grain they just purchased.  More amazing to find the silver chalice in Benjamin’s sacks.  Imagine the looks on their faces?  Benjamin was probably slack-jawed and pale as the sand he stood on, while the others were probably mystified and confused.

All of this drama?  Why?

Honestly, I think that Joseph wasn’t terribly interested in his older brothers.  I think he was trying to kidnap Benjamin.  He’d been holding Simeon captive until the could verify their story by bringing their youngest brother, Benjamin, with them.  Now that he’d seen Benjamin, he’s released Simeon.  But he’s set Benjamin up to be brought back as a slave.

When the steward caught up with them, his terms were simple; the one caught with the chalice returns as a slave, and the rest are free to go.  The brother’s emphatic insistence on their innocence was bolstered by them upping the ante.  They said they would submit to death the guilty brother and submit the remaining brothers to a lifetime of servitude.  But the steward declined.  And Joseph did too- until Judah makes his impassioned speech.


Following this speech by Judah, Joseph cracks, and finally reveals himself.


This particular story leaves me with more questions than it does answers, really.  Why does Joseph insist on drawing this game out?  What is his goal in hiding the silver back in their bags, rather than simply giving it to them outright?  Why set up Benjamin as a thief?  And then, why demand only the life of Benjamin as a slave rather than accepting his death, and then the lives of the remaining brothers?

Is God behind the family reunion?  Is God the reason that Judah’s impassioned speech breaks the will of Joseph to break up the family by keeping Benjamin?

Or was there some lesson to be learned that I have missed?  Why is this story even in the biblical account anyways?  I mean, there is no outright arm-of-God moment!  No voice in the pillar of smoke, no dreams, no big miracles.  Where does this story fit into the narrative of God’s redemption?

Maybes.  Lots of maybes.  Maybe the full family reunion was part of the plan all along.  Maybe Joseph was just playing cat and mouse, drawing out the anxiety in an ancient case of Candid Camera.  Or maybe Joseph was only ever interested in reuniting with Benjamin.  Bringing him back as a “servant” and putting him in a position of comfort near him.  Maybe he’d just written off his family, his brothers, and accepted his new life in Egypt.

I wonder how much of the Bible is actually like this?

When I started reading Genesis, it was with the intention and purpose of looking for God and flashes of His character.  And it has been thoroughly rewarding!  Which is what makes this small section of Genesis troubling.  But plays into Gods hands.  I read a proverb with my oldest son today that fits rather providentially into today’s passage: “Many are the plans of a man’s heart; But it is God’s purpose that prevails.”

Maybe this is the true lesson- that God, named or unnamed, visible or invisible, invited or not, always, always, ALWAYS, gets the very last word.