We come to the end of the Joseph story with the description of the death of Jacob, also known as Israel. In 48 he blesses the younger son over the elder son. This should not have been that strange in this family. Jacob was younger over Esau, Joseph was younger over his other 11 brothers, and so the trend continues with Joseph, where the youngest is actually the one who is blessed by God.
After that blessing then Jacob calls his sons and "blesses" them. Did you read those blessings carefully. Most of them were not super positive. Some of them seemed more like curses than blessings. Jacob then dies and he is buried in the cave that had been set apart for him and his family. Did you see how all of Egypt went out with Joseph to bury his dad. The people of that place recognized the importance of the event.
Psalm 31 is one that some of the words should sound familiar. Remember when Jesus was on the cross he said as his last words: Into your hands I commend my spirit, just like what we find in vs.5. Probably my favorite of these verses is the last one, 24, where we are called to gain strength as we wait for the Lord. The waiting for the Lord doesn't seem to be our strength at all most days. We would much rather God work on our time frame and in the way that we ask. But we are actually made stronger as we wait for the Lord to act.
I legitimately have a hard time getting through these chapters without my eyes tearing up. The reunion of Joseph and his brothers is incredibly touching to someone who has three brothers and can't imagine being apart from them for years and then finally coming together again. The most important verses in these chapters, and really one of the most important lessons in all of Scripture is found in 45:4-9.
Let's spend some time in these verses. "God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth...So it was not you who sent me here, but God." The perspective of Joseph is not only correct, but incredibly dispassionate. What I mean, is, yes, I know he is a babbling fool during all of this, what I mean is that he was somehow able to take into perspective his brothers shoving him in a pit, selling him in slavery, sold to the head of the guards of Pharaoh, seduced by a wife, thrown into prison, forgotten by the cupbearer and then finally being put in charge of all of Egypt.
So much wrong has happened to Joseph that it would have been so easy for him to focus on the incredibly terrible and tragic things that have happened in his life. But he was able to put it within the context of Romans 8:28 where Paul tells us: "We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose."
What a lesson for us that in the midst of our tragedies how do we see the hand of God working so that we are led to a point where we can say: "It was not you who sent me here, but God." He is basically saying, God sold me into slavery so that all of Israel could be saved. I didn't know it at the time, but I know it now. Just powerful. Simply powerful.
We dive right into the story of Joseph, and chapter 37 gives us the impression that we are diving into almost a whole different story. Look at vs.2 where it states: "This is the story of the family of Jacob..." It is the story of the family of Jacob, but it is predominantly the story of Joseph. Chapter 37 lays out the priority of Joseph in the family, especially calling him the favorite of Jacob.
Chapter 38 is a bit of a side note describing the relationships of one of Jacob's sons, Judah, and Tamar who ends up bearing sons as a result of a bit of trickery that was somewhat justified. We get back to Joseph in 39 where we see him once he arrives in Egypt as a result of being sold by his brothers into slave in chapter 37. The story of Joseph to me is the second most powerful story in all of Scripture next to the account of our Savior Jesus. We see God at hand even in those circumstances that seem impossible for God to be involved.
From the first step to the last we see how God is steering Joseph's life to be one that will ultimately result in recognizing God's kingdom through his life and his desires. In chapter 40 we see that Joseph is elevated even in the prison where he is prisoner and he interprets the dreams of the cupbearer and the baker which puts him strategically in a place where he can have an audience, eventually, before Pharaoh.
In 41 we see Joseph remembered by the cupbearer and brought before Pharaoh so that he can begin the work that God had planned for him all along. His plan was to place Joseph where he was so that the nation of Israel could be saved from famine. Of course, the nation of Israel was the father of Joseph and his brothers.
As we have stealthily made our way to the cross, we now find ourselves in the empty tomb with the women who discover only the linen cloths. From there we see Jesus appear three times to the disciples, with Thomas being dubbed the doubter and yet he is the only one to call Jesus "God" in all of Scripture. I like Thomas, he got it right, finally.
The final scene is that of the rehabilitation of Peter who denied Jesus three times and so had to admit his love for Jesus the same number of times. We have now finished the Gospel of John, arguably the most important of the Gospels.
I am really appreciating the comments and the interactions that we are having as we read Genesis and John together. It seems like Genesis is attracting most of the attention because of the unique characters that are there, and the flaws of those characters. And yet quietly Jesus is being led to the slaughter.
In Genesis we find the encounter of Esau and Jacob, one that we feared would create fireworks, but hardly a spark was seen. Esau acted as the one whom God should have chosen by hugging his brother and treating him with a grace that he did not deserve. I find it interesting that they even stay together, their families and their flocks, until later when the land can no longer support them then they separate and go their own way.
Just a chapter by chapter breakdown. Jacob and Esau getting back together again is in 33, then we move on to a horrific story of the rape of Dinah. We don't hear at all how that rape affected Dinah, but we hear much more about how it affected her brothers and the vengeance that they take out on the Hivites. Chapter 35 gives us the story of Jacob who is moving around a lot and the people of the neighboring lands being somewhat intimidated by the presence of him and his family.
Chapter 36 gives us a long list of the sons of Esau and the long line of descendants that came from his sons. Not a whole lot to write about here, but just keep in mind that God did not completely forget about him and he continues to be a son of Abraham.
In John we find the arrest of Jesus after his betrayal by Judas. The suffering of Jesus is pretty intense and it is only intensified by the disciples running away and Peter denying him. Pilate's concern of Jesus being a King is seen by all as he puts above Jesus' cross the title of :"King of the Jews". The death and burial of Jesus take place in a way that is prophesied in Scripture. Really from the beginning of Jesus' life to the end we see Him as the one that has been prophesied in Scripture from the very beginning.
The story of Jacob is a complicated, and frankly, a disturbing one. We find him fleeing from his brother and settle into the camp of his uncle after finding his beautiful cousin at a well that he wants to marry. Laban seems to fall in line with the rest of the story by deceiving Jacob, who was the ultimate deceiver.
We then have a rundown of babies that are born to Jacob from a multiplicity of women, all of whom were either his wife or his wife's servant, much like Sarah and Hagar. Eventually Rachel, the favorite wife, bears a son and that son is Joseph. Keep your eye on that Joseph, he is going to figure pretty prominently in the rest of Genesis. Also, there is a reason why Dinah is mentioned, she will also be an important figure in Genesis.
Once Jacob flees Laban with his flocks and his family Rachel seems to follow along in the deception gene and steals the family gods from Laban. This should be troubling on a whole variety of fronts, not the least of which is the fact that she is an idol worshipper. That is a problem with God. God wants to be worshipped alone and idols are a pretty big no-no for Him. But she gets away with it and Laban and Jacob depart peacefully.
We now have Jacob's name changing to Israel which is where the nation of Israel gains its name. When Jacob wrestles with God, God gives him that name as a tribute to his constant striving against those around him. That name continues to be relevant today as well. We will see what happens when Jacob meets Esau in the next chapter. One would expect that Esau would want blood vengeance. Let's see.
John gives us one of the most relevant chapters in all of Scripture. We find Jesus praying to the Father that his disciples would be one just as he and the Father are one. Jesus knew that on his death his disciples would scatter and that even today his churches would not be unified. So he prays that at some point we would be unified and one. That has not happened yet. A significant encyclical was put out by Pope John Paul II called Ut Unum Sint, which means that they would be one. You can read it here, it isn't very long: https://www.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_25051995_ut-unum-sint.html
We were in Naples serving at the time and I remember that it was a significant document because for one of the first times in history Protestants were called brothers and sisters in Christ. That is a good step toward unity.
You'll notice as we go through Genesis that it is a following of descendants of Abraham. We went from looking at Abraham and his journey under God's covenant with him, to Isaac and his journey in finding his wife and living his life under God's covenant. And now we find ourselves with Jacob and Esau and all the beautiful, and tragic, stories that accompany those characters. As we make our way through Genesis it is a retelling of God's people as they live out their lives under God's command and under God's covenant.
The story of Esau of Jacob begins once again the story of the eldest serving the youngest. You'll see that theme carried our in pretty much all of the families of God in the Old Testament. Already we have seen Isaac is over Ishmael. In these chapters we see Jacob over Esau, even if it was by hook or by crook. Isn't Rebekah something else as she consistently deceives her husband so that her "favorite" son would get what was not supposed to be his? That is also something else that we see in Scripture where the protagonists don't always follow the rules and yet God's purposes are somehow carried out. This is certainly not something to emulate.
We then find ourselves in the New Testament in John in what I see as probably the most important Scripture in the entire canon. Look at John 14:6, there is no other more important verse in the Bible than this one. Jesus says that he is the way and the life and that no one gets to the Father except through Jesus. This is the most exclusive claim in all of Scripture. I have always said that our faith is the most inclusive, it embraces all men and women from all walks of life. Anyone can be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Anyone and everyone. This is the inclusivity of the Gospel.
But the exclusivity of the Gospel is that it is only through Jesus that we find salvation. We do not all worship the same God, Jesus is the unique, singular, distinct God that must be worshipped. No other gods will do. This is an exclusive claim, but one that is open to all, which makes it inclusive. I hope you are following me.
I hope you enjoyed your weekend and enjoyed your brake over the Sunday. We find ourselves in the midst of the life of Isaac, from his birth, to his near death experience, to the death of his mother, and then finally to his marriage to Rebekkah. Isaac serves as a very clear Christ type in so many different ways, the most obvious of which is his near sacrifice on Mount Moriah. The father sacrificing the son does not take a lot of imagination to think of where else we have seen this in Scripture. Now it doesn't actually happen, and instead, it serves as an example of the love Abraham has for God which stretches even beyond familial ties.
Notice that Isaac marries his cousin, Rebekkah, which was very common in those days and which Abraham actually asked his servant to find someone from his household. Abraham insisted that Isaac not be taken back to his home country because God had established Abraham in the land of Canaan, the land where the people of God would be for generations.
In John we find this Gospel writer's version of the last supper. Notice this is the only Gospel that does not contain the bread and the wine that Jesus gives to his disciples. In its place John gives what I would consider the sacrament of foot washing. Now, let's be clear, foot washing is not as sacrament in Presbyterian thought, but it certainly does meet all of the criteria. It is an act that Jesus commands all of his disciples to do with a very clear message. We are each other's servants, or as Cain asked disdainfully, we are our brother's keepers in many, many different ways.
So we find ourselves with Abraham throughout these chapters. In 17 and 18 he is visited by the Lord who promises that he will have a son and that his name will be Isaac because Abraham laughed at God. I had always thought that in 18 was when Isaac received his name because of Sarah laughing, but it was back in 17 with Abraham laughing. We see the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah as a result of the people being evil because of how they treated the visiting angels who were being hosted by Lot, Abraham's nephew.
In 20 we see Abraham once again moving and telling the people of the new land that Sarah was his sister. God came close to destroying the king and his people because he took Sarah to be his wife, but had not laid with her. As a result he sends Abraham on his way with even more livestock and valuables. Isn't it interesting that each time that Abraham tells the rulers of the land that Sarah is his sister he ends up leaving that country with many more riches than when he entered.
In John we see in chapter 10 Jesus self describes as the gate and the shepherd. The Jews of the land gather around him and want to know if he is the Messiah. They look to stone him again but he makes his way out. We then see the story of Lazarus where Jesus proclaims that he is the resurrection and the life and that those who believe in him will never die. This is where our understanding of eternal life emanates. We will never die if we believe in Jesus as the Lord and Savior.
The raising of Lazarus from the dead is one that demands that the Jewish leaders gather together and try to figure out what to do with Jesus as he performs there many miracles. We see in 11:53 that it was from that point on they planned to put him to death. Jesus was a threat to the leaders because he was working outside of the prescribed boundaries. God tends to love to work outside of the prescribed boundaries.
Let's make our way through our reading beginning in chapter 12 which is really the beginning of the creation of the people of God through Father Abraham, who had many sons. Actually, he only had two sons, Ishmael and Isaac, but in these Scriptures for today we only see Ishmael. In chapter 12 we have God promising Abram that he will be the father of a great nation, they flee to Egypt because of a famine in the land, Abram lies about Sarai and as a result leaves Egypt a very wealthy man with is nephew Lot.
In 13 we find Lot and Abram separate and God promises Abram the land as far as his eyes can see. In 14 we see a battle of the local kings where Lot, Abram's nephew, gets swept up and Abram comes to his rescue and is showered with praise by the King Melchizedek. Keep this name in mind when we get to the New Testament in Hebrews 7 as Jesus is equated with him as the high priest.
In 15 we see the vision of God which comes to Abram and as a result we see a new covenant that God makes with Abram. Look at vs.18 where we read that on that day God made a covenant with Abram promising the land that was before him. This is the second covenant that God makes with humankind, the first was the one with Noah which we saw earlier. In 16 we see the birth of Ishmael as a result of Abram and Sarai's impatience. Be careful about pursuing the promises of God on your own time frame and not on the time frame that the Lord dictates. It will lead to rash decisions that will affect the rest of your life.
We then get to John. Notice that pretty much all of this takes place within the temple. One thing that I noted about the story of the adulterous woman was that she was they were in the temple, specifically in the area of the treasury where the people would have given their offerings, where Jesus at another time points out the widow and her mite. While they are there the woman is standing the whole time. I had always envisioned in my mind that they would have brought the woman to Jesus and thrown her down on the ground and the discourse would have taken place with her on the ground at Jesus' feet. Not so fast! The Scripture repeats that she is standing and Jesus himself straightens himself up to talk to her.
We find ourselves at the end of the story of Noah and God creating a new covenant with Noah which has as its sign the rainbow. This is where we find the sign of the rainbow representing the covenant that God will never destroy his people again. He commands the sons of Noah to be fruitful and multiply just like he had commanded Adam and Eve. You need to pay attention to Noah's son Shem from whom Abraham is to come. It is through Abraham that we find the nation and the people of Israel evolve.
But before we get there we find this interesting story of the Tower of Babel where God confuses the languages of the people so that they would not understand each other which would prevent them from doing the impossible, which was possible. Once we see that story we find ourselves beginning to see Abram and his story which we will follow as it takes us to the beginning of the people that God chose to be his people.
In John we have what we would call very high sacramental language. Look at chapter 6 and you will find Jesus describing the bread and the wine as the body and blood of Jesus as the redeemer of the sins of all humanity. It is very clear language and it is matched with a sacramental feast of the child bringing the bread and the fish which were used to feed the five thousand. Notice what Jesus does before he feeds the five thousand. Look at vs.11 where he 1) takes the loaves, 2) gives thanks, 3) distributes. This is the same process that is used in Matthew at the last supper as Jesus feeds his disciples that sacramental meal.
We also find many of Jesus' disciples abandoning him because of this sacramental language. But the twelve remain faithful. The chapters end with the unbelief of the religious leaders including a defense by Nicodemus which puts him on the edge of the leadership and almost accused of treason.