Posts Tagged ‘seen’

Waiting to Be Seen

Posted: February 14, 2012 in Chapter-a-day
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Genesis 40:

8.Then Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams.”

Joseph is in prison.

Ambushed by his brothers, threatened with death, and ultimately sold into the hands of travelers, he was sold into the servitude of a high-ranking military figure in the Egyptian royal guard, near the palace-compound of the Pharaoh.  Undaunted by the specter of his past, and unfettered by the chains of his circumstances, Joseph has risen to prominence, even as a slave, by being a blessing to the people around him.

Joseph’s attitude and mission made him a fountain of blessing to the people closest to him, no matter his circumstances.  He was attractive to people, because he brought blessing to them.

Unfortunately, somebody desired to take advantage of that, and lustily grasped for more.  Joseph refused to be put in that situation, out of respect for his master, but ultimately, because he knew it would be displeasing to God.  So she cooked up false charges against Joseph in her bitterness, and now, he is in prison.

Framed, and unjustly imprisoned, yet his attitude and mission have not wavered.  When fellow prisoners appear disheartened, he seeks to ease their burden.  And he says something that is most intriguing to me.  They tell him they are troubled because “they have had dreams” and there is no one to interpret the them.  His response?  “Do not interpretations belong to God?  Tell me your dreams.”

What a curious phrase.  Why would Joseph think he has any ability to ease the burden of his fellow prisoners by hearing the dreams, if interpretations belong to God?  What would make him think that?

Rob Bell, enigmatic and ire-inspiring, has written on something that strikes me as being parallel to this question:  Does God speak into and through unbelievers prophetically?  I don’t know that Bell would necessarily have phrased the question as clumsily as that- being prone to poetic prose, and being very good at phrasing questions with swagger.  But the question is still interesting.  Does truth spill from the mouth of the unbeliever?

I see Joseph making that claim, in a veiled way, in his statement.  He seems to be suggesting that the dreams have truth in them.  The truth resides in the vision-giver, not contingent on the vision-haver‘s belief or knowledge of God.

Paul says, hundreds and hundreds of years later, that God has made his invisible qualities known in Creation, and that He is made known in what He has made.  But that we have turned a blind eye to it.

All that is necessary then, is for somebody to enter the situation and see it for what it is!  And isn’t that ability itself a gift?  Isn’t it grace that removes the veil of sin and darkness from our eyes that we can peel back the curtain and see God’s Kingdom?

Joseph looks into these men, and their lives, as they are, and peels back the veil of God’s Truth spoken to them, and through them.

God longs to be known.  Communion with what He has created is intrinsic to the plan, and design of what He has made.  He is a communicator.  He is a protagonist.  Life is qualified by the degree to which it is in communion with its maker.  Joseph knows that God desires to be seen.  And that He can be seen, present in every life- not just the life of a “believer.”  So he looks for the truth in the vision, and gives the truthfulness of the vision- the degree to which it is true- over to God, who himself claims the meaning.

God speaks into people.  He speaks through people.  He does this with the desire to be seen and known.  Maybe one of our most important jobs isn’t to bring the truth to people, but instead of bringing it to them, showing them how it’s been there all along.

God doesn’t just show up in your life all of a sudden when you realize and admit that He’s real.  That would be idiotic.  Why would you want a God like that?  Rather, it’s in recognizing how God has always been, and will always be, there, with you, ahead of you, to your left and your right, and protecting your rear flank.

I think there is a powerful and compelling message to be found here: God doesn’t need us (i.e. “believers”) to “stick together” to the exclusion of the outside world.  We do not need to be pharaisees in our world.  He’s already out there, laying truth in people, doing truth in people, and setting them up to be called out and seen as part`of God’s plan, as part of God’s world, rather than antagonistic to it.

I think there are seasons where withdrawal is good.  We often call those seasons “sabbatical.”  Kind of like going to bed each night- sleep is more than recovery.  Sleep is health building.  But if you sleep all the time, well, you just get fat.

I will accept the challenge in this passage- God is out there, working, doing things, and waiting.  He’s waiting to be seen, waiting to be identified.  Waiting for genuine communion with everything He has made.  At the root of everything that is true, there can be but one Truth.

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Genesis 26

1 Now there was a famine in the land—besides the previous famine in Abraham’s time—and Isaac went to Abimelek king of the Philistines in Gerar. 2 The LORD appeared to Isaac and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live. 3 Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham. 4 I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring[a] all nations on earth will be blessed,[b] 5 because Abraham obeyed me and did everything I required of him, keeping my commands, my decrees and my instructions.” 6 So Isaac stayed in Gerar.

7… he said, “She is my sister,” because he was afraid to say, “She is my wife.” He thought, “The men of this place might kill me on account of Rebekah, because she is beautiful.”

10 Then Abimelek said, “What is this you have done to us? One of the men might well have slept with your wife, and you would have brought guilt upon us.”

12 Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the LORD blessed him.

27 Isaac asked them, “Why have you come to me, since you were hostile to me and sent me away?”
28 They answered, “We saw clearly that the LORD was with you; so we said, ‘There ought to be a sworn agreement between us’—between us and you. Let us make a treaty with you 29 that you will do us no harm, just as we did not harm you but always treated you well and sent you away peacefully. And now you are blessed by the LORD.”
 30 Isaac then made a feast for them, and they ate and drank.

My habit has been to observe and study more the lives of the people in Scripture.  Probably nothing really weird about that; I’m a person, and they’re people.  Plenty to relate to.  But I have been convicted that I need to gain more in the way of knowing who God is.  That the bible, for as much as it reveals about who we are, is far more valuable for what it reveals about who God is.  And I’ll be frank- I have been surprised at how pleasing and satisfying it has been for me to really examine and discover how remarkable God’s character is!  It shouldn’t- people have told me.  But now I’m seeing for myself how stunning and kind He is.

Three traits in particular have really stood out to me: He is indeed Holy; He demands justice. He demands payment for sin, and cannot abide with it.  But a flipside of that same demand for justice is that He is himself totally just.  So if He makes a promise, He is absolutely trustworthy to keep that promise.  He is determined to see it done.

He is a LIFE lover; though our communion, our LIFE, together, has been broken and disrupted, His affection for our LIFE together drives Him to repair and restore that communion.  Not enough to overthrow His need for justice and truthfulness.  But it is enough that he chooses MERCY.  He chooses to pay for the penalty at his own great cost, and then gives us the benefit of that payment.

That mercy is manifested in the third major cord.  His love for LIFE and COMMUNION is played out time and time again in the face of corruptible human partners who refuse, blunder, and disobey Him directly and constantly.  But He always subverts our subversion by being a servant-type.  Steadily, Holy God reveals his compulsion to show mercy and love LIFE by serving rather than demanding.  By paying rather than charging.

And that story repeats itself in every single generation.

In Genesis 26, Isaac, son of Abraham is at a cross roads.  There is great famine in the promised land.  The land God promised Abraham is dried and cracked.  People are leaving, looking for relief.  Isaac wanders into the land of the Philistines, perhaps on his way to Egypt when God says to him, “Do not go into Egypt; but stay where I instruct you.  Stay awhile and I will be with you and will bless you.”

Why?  Because he promised Abraham that in this place, the family tree of Abraham would become a family forest-wilderness of trees.  God’s promises are good.  No statute of limitations on that.  No expiration date.  Totally transferable.  Beyond-lifetime guarantee.

But Isaac becomes afraid.  He becomes worried.  He is insecure.  He has the same fears his father did before him, that the beauty of his wife would bring his own life into jeopardy.  So he plays the same card that his father did, and lies.  “She is my sister,” he would say.

But he gets caught.  Just like his dad.  Some lessons don’t come easy, I guess.

Isaac lied for the same reason Abraham did- he did not think God’s power was present where he was.  He probably believed in a geographical-God- a God who was strong at home, but not beyond the walls and doors of that home.  We do that too!  I do that too!  I have all the faith in the world when I’m with my small group, at my church, at that convention.  But where does that faith go when I am driving on the interstate, or shopping at a store in a seedy looking neighborhood?  Where is that faith when I am walking the sidewalks downtown?  Am I confident in God then?  Or do I adjust the rake of my hat a little, to look a little tougher?  Do I make criticisms that aren’t really merciful, so that I can appear witty or sophisticated?  Do I maybe make decisions because I know there are eyes watching me?  Eyes other than God’s?

But what happens?  Does God rebuke Isaac for falling into the same trap his father did?  For his faithlessness?

It says that Isaac planted crops, and reaped 100 times what he planted.  Why?  Because God blessed him.

Why?  Well, I think it’s safe to say that God doesn’t always bless a person because they merited it by good behavior.  Well, that leaves one other possibility: God blessed Isaac because it suited God’s ambitions to do so.  More succinctly, it pleased God to bless Isaac.  Or another way: God was pleased to bless Isaac for God’s own purposes and pleasure.

Later on we begin to see a reason for this: people once hostile to Isaac come to him and say “We saw clearly that the Lord was with you;”

Who is glorified by that?  Isaac?  He certainly gains from it, but I have to say that No, God is glorified by that.

God is glorified when people see Him blessing us.  God gives to us because then other people can see the riches of God in our life.  Apart from our merit, apart from our good decisions or bad decisions.  God blessed Isaac and people saw it.  They didn’t say, “that Isaac guy is a heck of a farmer,” or “that Isaac, boy, he really knows what he’s doing, doesn’t he?”  Nope, they said, “We saw clearly that the Lord was with you;”

Do what you can to hear and obey.  But thank God for His mercy!  And allow His blessing on your life to be visible to others!  Make every good thing that you have be a gift rather than something earned.

The struggle for me is to accept it.  I want to earn it.  I want to deserve God’s favor.  And I think that’s a good thing.  I think that desire is placed in my heart by God, by His mercy, to drive me to live in the Kingdom of Heaven, in the fullness of the LIFE He made it to be.  The trouble comes though when in my desire to earn his favor, I lose sight of his grace.  You don’t want to do that.  You don’t want to turn God away and say, “no, no.”

The grace that causes that desire to deserve God’s favor is good- it impels me to pull God’s kingdom into my present.  That’s a gift to me because God’s kingdom is what I’m designed for.  And you too.  But when I have to earn it, I lose it.  I can’t earn it.  I must accept it.  And that’s alright with Him.  That’s the only way it works.  Isaac didn’t reap 100 times what he sowed because he knew something the others didn’t.  It was because God desired to be seen through Him.  I’d like to try that.  I’d like to be a prism for God’s light to shine through.  For the beam to refract, and spread, and shine.