Posts Tagged ‘selflessness’

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.

Catharsis!

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.

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Names

Posted: August 29, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I’ve been thinking about names recently.  Now, don’t jump to conclusions, we’re not having a baby.

I’ve been thinking a lot about names because it seems to be that people who claim to follow Jesus as Lord seem pretty hung up on his name.  And for good cause.  I mean how many big time evils have been committed by people who claimed to speak for God?  For Jesus?  But absolutely did NOT represent who God and Jesus evidenced themselves to be?

So we want specifics.  Do you believe in God?  Which God?  What’s His name?  Can you point out evidence that you and I believe in the same God?  Maybe if you would tell me your political views?  Or perhaps if I could just peek at your bank statements, and see how you spend your money?  Or look at your web-browsers history folder?  How do I know you and me are talking about the same thing?

There’s a guy on the internet that I used to follow.  He is a very prolific writer, and the way he seems to universalize Buddhism and Christianity and Islam mystifies me.  It’s perplexing to me, because when I read his posts it seems like he talks about Jesus so much, but when he talks about things Jesus said or did as recorded in a particular passage of scripture he seems to lift it straight up out of the story and allegorize it to the point that it wouldn’t drop back into the same spot and make sense anymore with his translation.  So who is he talking about?  How can I tell if he’s talking about the Jesus I know?

It occurred to me the other day- I was reading over the story of Hagar.  When Sarah and Abraham couldn’t have any children, Sarah invited her husband to sleep with her servant, Hagar, and have a child by her.  But then when Hagar conceived and gave birth to a son, Sarah grew spiteful, and sent her away.

Hagar wandered in the desert 3 days, but when she could go no further, set the baby under a bush and walked a short distance off.  And God came to her.  Rescued her.  Sent her back.  Hagar named her newfound God “The God who Sees Me.”

Abraham plants a tamarisk tree to mark an agreement with his nephew Lot.  It serves as a memorial and a witness- a physical reminder of the divine witness that God plays- a crucial part of in any oath between men, and Abraham and Lot agree and part ways, witnessed by “Everlasting God.”

God is referred to by many, many names.  “God who provides,” “God who heals us”.

So who exactly are we talking about?  Hagar comes up to Abraham and says, “Hey- my God is the “God who sees Me.”  And Abraham says, “Oh yeah?!  Well MY God is “Everlasting God.”

You and I know they are the same.  But how do Hagar and Abraham get to that?

God’s Names are always attached to an action.  There is physical evidence of who God is.  That is how I’ll know.  Where the spirit of God is, there is Freedom.  The fruit of the Spirit of God is known by action.  If these things are present, Jesus is also there.  Maybe, Jesus is waiting for someone to recognize him and name him.

Can I bring Jesus somewhere?  Can I put him someplace he has never been?

I see now that I cannot.  Jesus is shown in scripture to be the Word that was with God, and is himself God, from before eternity.  He is the end of all things- all things are made by him, and for him, and indeed held together by him.  If there is someplace where he hasn’t been- well, it’s not a place.  It’s not there.  He holds all things.

So if I identify truth, or justice, mercy, sacrifice, if I find people who value and uphold justice, humility, and self-lessness, I see the Spirit of Jesus present and at work.  I need only identify him.  And identify with him.  I suppose that’s how they’ll who I am, and who I am talking about.