BLOG – July 3, 2020
Exodus 3:1-12 Moses 1
3 Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed…. 4 When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5 Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6 He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
7 Then the Lord said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, 8 and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey… 9 The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. 10 So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” 11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” 12 He said, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.”
Moses was 80 years old when God spoke to him. He had tried to start a revolt against the Egyptians 40 years earlier. But for the last 40 years he had been taking care of sheep – not even his own sheep – his father-in-law’s sheep. The only job he could get was one his father-in-law gave him. This is not the resume of a person to free a nation from slavery and to bring them to the promised land. And Moses knows that about himself as well. Read vs. 11, “Who am I?”
God’s answer is simple – “It is not who you are – it is who I am that matters here.” It is not Moses that is important, instead the important one is the God of the universe who is about to reveal God’s name – the all-encompassing name – “I AM” or “I AM who I AM”. How are we to understand that name? – it means “God is” – and that at core is a sufficient answer to any question, for all questions – “God is.”
This God is the one who is sending Moses, this is the God who will be with Moses. This God is the one who invites us to join God on God’s mission to offer liberty to the captives and freedom to the oppressed, to speak forgiveness to the guilty and hope to the hopeless, to bring comfort to the mourning and companionship to the lonely – to answer all whose cries have come to the ear and heart of God.
God who calls those who have fallen and those who have failed to be your people, we come with nothing in ourselves that would cause you to choose us. But we know it is not about us, rather it is all about you. Thank you for using us for your glory and honour. These things we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
BLOG – July 2, 2020
Genesis 50:15-21 Joseph 7
15 Realizing that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers said, “What if Joseph still bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong that we did to him?” 16 So they approached Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this instruction before he died, 17 ‘Say to Joseph: I beg you, forgive the crime of your brothers and the wrong they did in harming you.’ Now therefore please forgive the crime of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. 18 Then his brothers also wept, fell down before him, and said, “We are here as your slaves.” 19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God? 20 Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today. 21 So have no fear; I myself will provide for you and your little ones.” In this way he reassured them, speaking kindly to them.
Jacob had died, now that the referee between the brothers was gone, would Joseph come back and exact revenge on the brothers. This was their great fear.
Joseph names the problem clearly – “You wanted to harm me. You were seeking to see evil befall me.” Joseph is not for one second saying that it was no big deal, he is not saying it was not a problem, it is a problem what they wanted to do. But against their desire to do him harm stood God and his plans to use their wrong actions for God’s purposes. Did the fact that God used these actions for good make the brothers’ actions any less wrong? No, they were still wrong. The fact that God redeemed their actions did not make the actions any less harmful to Joseph. What it does point to is that God can redeem the bad things in our lives, and can bring good out of the pain, good of the hurt, good out of the wrong done to us. That God does this is part of the reconciliation God is enacting in the world, transforming the hate and bitterness and anger of this world into a kingdom of peace and justice and humility.
Even as Joseph was clear about the hurt he experienced, he was clear that God was at work in the midst of the pain. God was present in the groaning and the anguish, bringing about God’s purposes. Therefore, Joseph was able to forgive, for he understood the grander purposes of God.
Joseph was lucky to see his pain redeemed. Lucky to see the good that came from his suffering. Sometimes we are that lucky, sometimes we are not. When we do not see what God is up to, when we do not have a chance to see the redemption that God is bringing – can we still trust, can we still say “This has harmed me, my family, my loved ones, people I cared about, but God will bring redemption and I can trust in what he will do”?
God who redeems the suffering of the world, we rejoice that you redeemed the hurt that Joseph experienced. We rejoice that he was able to see what you were doing, and the good you brought about. But, Father, we cannot see where COVID-19 is taking our world, and how you will redeem this pain and suffering, for the world is in pain. Teach us to live with hope, even though we cannot see. Teach us patience, even though we want answers now. These things we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
BLOG – July 1, 2020
Genesis 44 (selected verses) Joseph 6
44 Then Joseph he commanded the steward of his house, “Fill the men’s sacks with food, as much as they can carry, and put each man’s money in the top of his sack. 2 Put my cup, the silver cup, in the top of the sack of the youngest, with his money for the grain.” And he did as Joseph told him. 3 As soon as the morning was light, the men were sent away with their donkeys. 4 When they had gone only a short distance from the city, Joseph said to his steward, “Go, follow after the men; and when you overtake them, say to them, ‘Why have you returned evil for good? Why have you stolen my silver cup?”…
6 When he overtook them, he repeated these words to them…. 12 The servant searched… and the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack. 13 At this they tore their clothes. Then each one loaded his donkey, and they returned to the city….
18 Then Judah stepped up to him and said, “O my lord, let your servant please speak a word in my lord’s ears, and do not be angry with your servant; for you are like Pharaoh himself…. 32 I became surety for the boy to my father, saying, ‘If I do not bring him back to you, then I will bear the blame in the sight of my father all my life.’ 33 Now therefore, please let your servant remain as a slave to my lord in place of the boy; and let the boy go back with his brothers. 34 For how can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? I fear to see the suffering that would come upon my father.”
We as readers have the advantage of being able to see that Joseph is carefully managing things.
The brothers, on the other hand, felt like they were in a nightmare. The brothers had Simeon back, had food, and now were leaving to go home with Benjamin safe and sound. Everything was going well. And then disaster struck. Benjamin was found with Joseph’s silver cup – the other brothers must have been thinking “Benjamin, of all the stupid things to do this is the stupidest.” But they were sworn to protect him even if he did stupid things.
Judah stepped up and took responsibility. He recognized that Benjamin had done wrong and he, Judah, was willing to pay the price for Benjamin. He would redeem Benjamin from the fate that Benjamin should face. Remember it was Judah who had suggested selling Joseph into slavery, making some money of the pain-in-the-neck of a kid brother (Gen. 37:26). Judah was now willing to sacrifice his life for this pain-in-the-neck kid brother who had stolen the silver cup.
Two thoughts arise:
Who would we be willing to take the fall for? Who would we be willing to step into the gap and say, “I will take the punishment they deserve?”
Second, Jesus stepped into the gap for us and said, “I will take the punishment they deserve.” Thanks be to Jesus Christ for willingness to take our place.
God, your son Jesus Christ, took our place, taking the punishment that was ours. We thank you for this act of love and grace in which we have been redeemed. We do not have the words to express our thanks, for “thank you” seems far too small a response given what you have done for us in Jesus Christ. These things we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
BLOG – June 30, 2020
Genesis 42 (selected verses) Joseph 5
42 When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why do you keep looking at one another? 2 I have heard,” he said, “that there is grain in Egypt; go down and buy grain for us there, that we may live and not die.”…
6 Now Joseph was governor over the land; it was he who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground. 7 When Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he treated them like strangers and spoke harshly to them. “Where do you come from?” he said. They said, “From the land of Canaan, to buy food.” 8 Although Joseph had recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him. 9 Joseph also remembered the dreams that he had dreamed about them. He said to them, “You are spies; you have come to see the nakedness of the land!”… 17 And he put them all together in prison for three days.
18 On the third day Joseph said to them, “Do this and you will live, for I fear God: 19 if you are honest men, let one of your brothers stay here where you are imprisoned. The rest of you shall go and carry grain for the famine of your households, 20 and bring your youngest brother to me. Thus your words will be verified, and you shall not die.” And they agreed to do so. 21 They said to one another, “Alas, we are paying the penalty for what we did to our brother; we saw his anguish when he pleaded with us, but we would not listen. That is why this anguish has come upon us.” 22 Then Reuben answered them, “Did I not tell you not to wrong the boy? But you would not listen. So now there comes a reckoning for his blood.” 23 They did not know that Joseph understood them, since he spoke with them through an interpreter. 24 He turned away from them and wept; then he returned and spoke to them. And he picked out Simeon and had him bound before their eyes.
The 10 who did Joseph wrong have come to Egypt for food – and they end up at Joseph’s mercy. I confess I am left with more questions than answers at this point.
How surprised do you think Joseph was to see them? What did he do during the 3 days they were in prison, what was going on in his heart and mind?
They do not recognize Joseph, which makes sense, they do not expect him to be the “governor over the land” – but Joseph is clearly on their minds. They are haunted by what they did to him. How painful the guilt is.
I understand the tough words, the probing questions, the three days of waiting for an answer. (Three days in prison – they have time to think – three days held in limbo – think Jonah). But why demand a hostage? And when Joseph can understand the conversation they are having among themselves and he is moved by it, does he think they have not learned their lesson? I confess I find the locking up of Simeon to be puzzling. It does remind us forgiving those who have hurt us is not easy.
God of mercy, who offers forgiveness and new life, we rejoice when it comes to us, but we confess that we are sometimes slow to offer it to others. Teach us the joy of being as generous with mercy as you are. Give us the heart of the Waiting Father who desires nothing better than to offer forgiveness and grace. Help us to free others from the burden of guilt. These things we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
BLOG – June 29, 2020
Genesis 41:14-16, 25-27, 29-30, 34-40, 46 Joseph 4
14 Then Pharaoh sent for Joseph, and he was hurriedly brought out of the dungeon. When he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came in before Pharaoh. 15 And Pharaoh said to Joseph, “I have had a dream, and there is no one who can interpret it. I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.” 16 Joseph answered Pharaoh, “It is not I; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.”…
25 Then Joseph said to Pharaoh, “Pharaoh’s dreams are one and the same; God has revealed to Pharaoh what he is about to do. 26 The seven good cows are seven years, and the seven good ears are seven years; the dreams are one. 27 The seven lean and ugly cows that came up after them are seven years, as are the seven empty ears blighted by the east wind. They are seven years of famine….29 There will come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt. 30 After them there will arise seven years of famine, and all the plenty will be forgotten in the land of Egypt; the famine will consume the land…. 34 Let Pharaoh proceed to appoint overseers over the land, and take one-fifth of the produce of the land of Egypt during the seven plenteous years. 35 Let them gather all the food of these good years that are coming, and lay up grain under the authority of Pharaoh for food in the cities, and let them keep it. 36 That food shall be a reserve for the land against the seven years of famine that are to befall the land of Egypt, so that the land may not perish through the famine.”
37 The proposal pleased Pharaoh and all his servants. 38 Pharaoh said to his servants, “Can we find anyone else like this—one in whom is the spirit of God?” 39 So Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. 40 You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command; only with regard to the throne will I be greater than you.”…
46 Joseph was thirty years old when he entered the service of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
It is a long scripture reading, so the comment is short. Do notice how young Joseph is as he launches one of the world’s famine relief programs. Do notice as well how concerned he as one of God’s people is in making sure people have food.
From the dungeon to the Prime Ministership in a day. Talk about meteoric rise.
Notice the fine line Joseph walks in giving credit. Vs. 16 – “God will give Pharaoh” and vs. 25 – “God has revealed to Pharaoh” – God is the one who is doing this. But in vs. 34 Joseph speaks his advice – “Let Pharaoh appoint overseers”. Joseph is clearly signally what is God speaking and what is Joseph’s views as one who is gifted by God but who in those moments is not speaking with God’s voice. This line between a. God speaking through Joseph and b. Joseph as a person who follows God speaking is interesting to me. It makes me wonder how careful I am to distinguish between God’s voice and my voice.
God who provides your people with wisdom and insight, we thank you for the wisdom you gave to Joseph and to many others through the ages who have sought to feed the hungry and house the homeless serving in your name. We thank you for them. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
BLOG – June 28, 2020
Genesis 39 Joseph 3
2 The Lord was with Joseph, he was in the house of Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, his Egyptian master. 3 His master saw that the Lord was with him, and that the Lord caused all that he did to prosper in his hands….6 So he left all that he had in Joseph’s charge; and, with him there, he had no concern for anything but the food that he ate.
Now Joseph was handsome and good-looking. 7 And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, “Lie with me.” 8 But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Look, with me here, my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my hand. 9 He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except yourself, because you are his wife. How then could I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” 10 And although she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not consent to lie beside her or to be with her. 11 One day, however, when he went into the house to do his work, and while no one else was in the house, 12 she caught hold of his garment, saying, “Lie with me!” But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside….16 She kept his garment by her until his master came home, 17 and she told him, “The Hebrew servant, whom you have brought among us, came in to me to insult me; 18 but as soon as I raised my voice and cried out, he left his garment beside me, and fled outside.”…
20 Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined. 21 But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love; he gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer….23 The chief jailer paid no heed to anything that was in Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made it prosper.
Three things to see:
- When one thinks things can’t get worse, they do. From being a slave to being a prisoner. And Joseph becomes a prisoner for a crime that he did not commit.
- Joseph lives by a moral code and he pays the price for living by that code. Living by a moral code is no protection from being accused of doing wrong. Even if there are no rewards for doing the right thing, it is still the right thing. It is still the right thing to not sleep with Potiphar’s wife, even though Joseph ends up in jail for doing the right thing.
- Vs. 2 and vs. 23 affirm that God was with Joseph even as all of this is happening. Even as things go from bad to worse. God’s presence is not protection from bad times; God’s presence is support in the midst of bad times. God’s presence does not make everything perfect; God’s presence gives us strength to make it through when things are going badly.
Lord God, we thank you that you give us the strength and the resources to make it through the dark valleys of our lives. We thank you that you are with us in those times. We rejoice that living by your moral compass is the way to live a life that is centered and good. Teach us to walk that road even when the way is hard and the cost real. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
BLOG – June 26, 2020
Genesis 37:2-11 Joseph 1
Joseph, being seventeen years old, was shepherding the flock with his brothers;…and Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. 3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves [or “coat of many colours”]. 4 But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him.
5 Once Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him even more. 6 He said to them, “Listen to this dream that I dreamed. 7 There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright; then your sheaves gathered around it, and bowed down to my sheaf.” 8 His brothers said to him, “Are you indeed to reign over us? Are you indeed to have dominion over us?”…
9 He had another dream, and told it to his brothers, saying, “Look, I have had another dream: the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.” 10 But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him, and said to him, “What kind of dream is this that you have had? Shall we indeed come, I and your mother and your brothers, and bow to the ground before you?” 11 So his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind.
The normal struggles of a large family where one child is much loved, and the rest of the siblings are jealous. The normal struggles of a teenager who with great dreams and big plans, has not yet learned how to frame those ideas in a way that allows others to hear them. Would Joseph have been a pain to have as a brother? Yes, he would have been a pain. Is Joseph wise in how he communicates? No, he is not. Is Joseph insensitive to the feelings of others? Absolutely.
We know that God will use this arrogant brat of a teenager, when he has grown in wisdom and social skills, to pull off one of the first famine relief programs in the world. And so, we are sympathetic to Joseph. But his siblings didn’t know that. His father didn’t know that. Joseph’s story reminds me to not be too quick to judge teenagers when their words and actions drive me crazy, to try to mentor rather than condemn, to try to guide rather than block, to try to give enough space to try out their wings but not enough that they come to a catastrophic end.
In the midst of COVID-19 we have an opportunity to reach out to teenagers who have much to say about this moment that we are in – COVID, Black Lives Matter, and a changing school context. Will we be able to have open ears and closed mouths to hear out what the teenagers in our lives have to say? Can we help them, even when they are infuriatingly teenagers, to grow into the people God dreams for them to be?
God of teenagers and adults, children and grandparents, we confess that teenage-hood is a challenging time, even more so in the present moment. Give us the patience to respond to teenagers with grace and compassion, providing listening ears and wise guidance. Teach us the skills to be mentors, encouraging the grand dreams and big hopes of young people. Show us in this moment how to celebrate graduates of middle school, high school, university and college. In Jesus’s name. Amen.