Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Revenge, Good, Evil, and the Will of God in Genesis 37-50

Imagine if you had a chance at revenge. Would you hurt those who had hurt you?
A man called Joseph faced just such a question.

9 of Joseph's 10 older brothers perpetrated real genuine evil against him.
This was no accident or joke. They sold him into slavery. What they had done was evil and they knew it was. They could make self-deceptive excuses. They could lie and say they didn't mean to hurt him--even they had. They could try and stretch logic to morally equivocate saying that they sold him into slavery believing somehow it was not evil as killing him and getting his blood on their own hands. But that's just a semantic game that people play with themselves rather than having the courage to call evil what it really is: evil. See Genesis.37:25-29.

Imagine that a day came many years later when hunger placed these very same older brothers directly in Joseph's presence again. This time all the power in their relationship was flipped over. This time Joseph had power and what they most needed that day to stay alive: food for them and their families. And these brothers all bowed low to Joseph—just as he had dreamed would happen many years ago.

real compassion, care, and concern guided Joseph's actions.
When he met his brothers many years later Joseph recognized his brothers right away. He knew who they were and what they had done. But he chose the opposite of revenge. Joseph waited until emotion overwhelmed him before he revealed his real identity. When he finally revealed himself he spoke kindly to them. He told them God had sent him ahead to preserve their lives and the lives of many. Joseph welcomed his father and brothers and extended family into Egypt. They settled and lived well.

God used evil for good ,
Things were good for Joseph's brothers. It was good for them; buy when their father Jacob died fear came over these older brothers again. Would Joseph use his power over his brothers to hurt them now. They knew what kind of evil people could perpetrate. And here Joseph's words speak of a great mystery—how God can use the evil people have done to others for good.

Joseph's words to his brothers speak to the truth of evil in our souls and in our world. And his words also speak to the goodness of God for all people.
19 And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God? 20 But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. 21 Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them. Genesis 50:19-21 (KJV)
As a sinner saved by grace there's so much life in these words. God can use even our worst to bring about the best. And for that I give thanks,
Peace, and thanks for reading.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Divine Dreams in Genesis 37

Dreams are part of faith. Dreams are part of walking with God. And walking with God will take you into situations that are often way over your head—but that are well within God's abilities to reach out and save.

So this week I'm going to look at a dreamer in scripture—a boy named Joseph.Joseph was a dreamer. So far so good. But his dreams and their father's favoritism angered his older brothers. They were mad that Joseph had been given a special coat.

Joseph dreamed of a day when he and his brothers were out gathering wheat into sheaths in the field. He dreamed of their 11 shieves bowing down to his one sheath in the middle standing tall and strong. His older brothers, all ten of them, swore they would never bow to him. What a little punk. Jospeh this no good dreamer—did he really think he'd be their king.

The next nighttime vision he shared was of the stars, moon, and sun all bowing down before him. This was just too much.
This time he told his father as well as his brothers, and his father rebuked him. “What do you mean?” his father asked. “Will your mother, your brothers, and I actually come and bow before you?” 11 But while his brothers were jealous of Joseph, his father gave it some thought and wondered what it all meant. Genesis 33:10-11 NLT
His brothers went to Shechem to graze their father’s flocks. And old Jacob, now called Israel, the man who'd wrestled with God sent his favorite son, Joseph, out to see how his brothers were doing.

The trip took a while. He went first to Shechem but a man there told him to head on to Dothan. They spotted Joseph while he was still far away and they hatched a plan—kill him.

There's a marble marker with these words in front of the old Loraine Motel, now the National Civil Rights Museum, in Memphis Tennessee. It's there in that hotel in downtown Memphis where Martin Luther King Jr was shot and killed.
19 And they said one to another, Behold, this dreamer cometh. 20 Come now therefore, and let us slay him, and cast him into some pit, and we will say, Some evil beast hath devoured him: and we shall see what will become of his dreams. Genesis 37:19-20 (KJV)
Dreamers aren't always welcome or wanted. The visions they offer don't always receive acclaim or welcome from everyone in our world. But God gives us dreams even when they are unpopular because God invites to see beyond today. God gives prophets dreams of justice rolling down like water falls and righteousness flowing like an unfailing stream.

Dreamers often get a bad rap. They are thought of as less than serious—not quite grown up enough. But scripture is full of dreams and dreamers who saw things through their dreams from God's point of view. God gave this dream—and Joseph's brother's rejected it.

Just because you have a dream from God doesn't mean everyone around you will share it or rejoice in it with you. Joseph's brothers grew angrier and angrier. Who is this little punk. He deserves to die. Hatred grew deep in them. Evil welled up that they could think to take his life. Petty jealousy—fear of losing their privileged places as older brothers—the list of possible motives for their crime is long. But God had another plan for them and for Joseph. And God still sends dreams to dreamers today--who see past what is to God's greater future.
Peace, and thanks for reading.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Divine Intervention?

Some people who say there's no such thing as miracles; but I look at the world and scripture and I see God's activity all around. Some people say that God can't intervene in the world and that God doesn't care or can't care about us as individuals and our needs. And it's our stories that tell otherwise. This week I'm thinking about two stories of God intervening in human life. One comes from Genesis 32:22-32 about Jacob wrestling with God. And one is in Matthew 14:13-21 about a miracle that happened when five loaves and two fish became a meal for many. These stories speak of God deep engagement in our lives in personal and direct ways.

I know there are some days, maybe you know some of those day's yourself, when it seems like evil and death are winning. These are the times when I most need to hear the promise again that God can and does care. Jacob needed to be reminded of God's care the night he wrestled with an unknown opponent. He needed to know that God can and does act in our lives. And the crowd of thousands who Jesus fed with 5 loaves and 2 fish saw God's blessing overflow.

I believe God's always at work; but often in small ways. Maybe the stories of God's overflowing presence remind us again of who we are to God.

It's in the tough days that's when it matters again who Jesus is. It matters again for me that I hear stories of God breaking in to ordinary lives like mine. The things for me is to know that God enters our lives not always in earth shaking moments. God often enters my story quietly—and I am guess that God enters into your story in ways that are often almost so small and ordinary that we'll miss the presence of God in the middle of ordinary life.

So today I give thanks for all the ways we meet God in the moments of doubt and wrestling. And I give thanks for all the times when God has provided--but I haven't see the ways of God's provision.

Peace and thanks for reading, John