Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Bible Reading Reflection (Ex 13-16)

So, God takes Israel the long way to Canaan.  The most direct route would lead them through Philistine territory, and God thought that if Israel faced war, they would change their minds and return to Egypt.  Curiously, the text says that Israel left Egypt and was "ready for battle," yet God led them away from war with the Philistines.  Even though Israel was "ready for battle," they were not ready at all.  God had purposefully led them to an area that was strategically poor.  If they would to face an enemy on land, they would have been boxed in with the sea behind them and the enemy in front of them and have no place to turn.  God wanted Pharaoh to pursue Israel.  The ever ready Israel saw Pharaoh and his army approaching, but instead of mustering for battle, their confidence, if they had any at all, melted away.  They were terrified and accused Moses of leading them out to the desert to die at the hands of the Egyptians.  There was no thought of victory or deliverance in their minds.  Moses told them to stand firm, and see the deliverance of Yahweh.  They would not have to fight at all, but Yahweh would fight for them.  God opened the sea and Israel passed through to safety, while God drowned the pursuing Egyptians in the sea.  How poetically appropriate.  The Egyptians, who had drowned male Hebrews babies in the water in an effort to destroy them are now themselves drowned in the water.

As I reflect on the "readiness" of the Hebrews, I am reminded of myself.  I feel confident.  I feel ready to take on anything.  Then God leads me to a place where I am boxed in.  There is no place to turn.  In spite of my confident readiness, I am not ready at all.  My fear, doubt, and even unbelief come to the surface.  My confidence melts away in the face of an unbeatable challenge.  I cry.  I complain.  I lash out at those close to me.  I isolate myself.  I have a pity party.

I have to wonder.  Where did my confidence and readiness come from?  Did I really trust God, or was I just saying that I did because it sounded good?  Do I truly trust God, or is my trust in a government program to bail me out?  Do I have confidence in God's promises, or is my confidence in my perceived ability to control and handle things on my own?   Do I calm myself in God's presence, or do I frantically look everywhere but up?

Lord, I cannot do this.  I really cannot.  I thought I could, but I can't.  I am admitting my impotence and powerlessness and utter lack of control.  I thought it might go one way, but instead it went a completely different way.  Help me to see past of the illusion of control.  Help me to squash the deceitfulness of pride.  Help me acquire true courage and confidence from faith in you.  Thank you for your mercy and patience. 

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Bible Reading Reflection (Gen 46-50)

It has been mentioned at least twice in Genesis that Joseph married an Egyptian woman.  Not unusual, considering he spent most of his life there.  However, the text mentions twice that Asenath, his wife, was the daughter of an Egyptian priest.  I am not sure why these details are mentioned.  Scripture typically disapproves of Israelites marrying pagans, especially Canaanite ones.  The Canaanites were so wicked and detestable with their cult prostitution, child sacrifices, and other abominable practices that the land vomited them out.  Maybe since Asenath was an Egyptian and not a Canaanite, there is no condemnation or hint of disapproval?

As I look over the story again, Joseph is the one who is front and center as a positive example in every way.  Even though Joseph lived the majority of his life in a land that was not his home, and in the shadow of gods that were not his, and in a marriage to the daughter of a priest of one of those gods, Joseph remained loyal and faithful to his heritage and his God.  He had a clear sense of identity that never faded even when he became a powerful government official in Egypt.  Joseph did not adopt his wife's gods, but was faithful to the true God, the God of his fathers. The text does not say, but I think it is reasonable to assume that Asenath became a follower of Yahweh, and made her husband's God her God.   After all, Ephraim and Manasseh, her sons, are part of the heads of the twelve tribes of Israel.

We live in two worlds as well.  Our true home, heritage, and identity is tied up in God.  Our temporary lodging place is here.  As Paul wrote in the New Testament, "Our citizenship is in Heaven."  We belong to the Kingdom of God.  Whether my boss is a Christian or not, whether my spouse is committed to God or not, whether my family, friends, and neighbors accept Jesus or not, Joseph's example reminds us that we need to remember who we are.  It is too easy to let our spouse, job, and family divide our loyalties.  
Lord, may we never forget in whose Kingdom we belong.  May we, like Joseph, never lose our sense of identity and remain loyal and faithful.  You have been loyal and faith to us even though we do not deserve it.  May we be loyal and faithful to you, the only one who is truly worthy.  Thank you for your mercy, love, and patience.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Bible Reading Reflection (Gen 42-45)

Joseph must have had a keen sense of God's presence.  When he sees his brothers, the same brothers who had sold him into slavery many years before, he feels no resentment or righteous indignation toward them.  Even though he lived as a slave and was thrown into an Egyptian prison for many years, he does not retaliate or seek justice for the wrong done to him.  He understands that God's hand was in everything that happened.  The end result was that his father and the rest of his family were preserved from starvation from the seven year famine that had struck.  Who could have ever thought that this would be the end result?  I am reminded of that passage from Ecclesiastes 3 that says God has placed eternity in our hearts, but no one can fathom what God is doing from beginning to end.  I would like to see over the horizon of God's plan, but I am very limited in what I can see.  This story reminds me to trust God.  All things indeed do work out for good to those that love God. 

Lord, please help me to always be aware of your presence in all things, so that I am not shaken by what wrongly appears to be your absence, or what appears to be events outside of your control.  Help me to have the perspective and faith of Joseph so that I am always in harmony inwardly and with you.