Enter Joseph – Genesis 37

Although the account of his birth is in Genesis 30, he plays a minor role as the “favorite wife’s son” until we get to chapter 37. Now he comes to center-stage, the main character until the end of the book. His mother has already died in childbirth, bearing Jacob’s only full brother, Benjamin.

Now a teen-ager, with possibly the characteristics of a teen, he brings a bad report back to his father about the shortcomings of his half-brothers. It may have endeared him to his father, but certainly didn’t help his relationship with his brothers. Strike one.

Then Israel/Jacob made him a special coat which caused his brothers to envy him, and was a sure sign of his father’s favoritism. It says, “His brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers; and so they hated him and could not speak to him on friendly terms.” Strike two.

Then the dreams started coming, and with the distorted wisdom of a teen, Joseph could not keep his mouth shut. I can’t blame him – it would be pretty mind-blowing to have these kinds of dreams. But he didn’t have the filter to not hear what he was saying to the people who would be most affected. Not once, but twice! Even his father objected to the idea that he would someday bow down to his son. “So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words” until they plotted how to kill him. Strike three.

Jealousy, envy that seems reasonable when things are “not fair,” has a way of growing within us. 

So when Israel sent Joseph to report on his brothers again, the brothers were not keen on being tattled on again. Joseph was tenacious to find his brothers and report to his father. After all, he was his father’s favorite son.

But his brother’s had other ideas, little schemes hatched in over active minds looking for revenge. I’m sure Joseph, in his naivety, had no idea of what lay before him as he walked into the trap which enfolded. First the plot to kill him; then the plan to enslave him – after all, then it wouldn’t be murder, the brothers reassured themselves, each one making compromises in their hearts.

Reality hit when they told their lie to their father, who “tore his clothes, and put sackcloth on his loins and mourned for his son many days. 35 Then all his sons and all his daughters arose to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. And he said, ‘Surely I will go down to Sheol in mourning for my son.’ So his father wept for him.

We learned later this scene ripped at the heart of the boys. Sworn to a pledge of silence, no one dared to tell the truth. After all, if slavery happened to Joseph, what would happen to them if they told? The watched, day after day, their father in distress, blaming himself for sending Joseph to find the flock, depressed year after year, until the truth would be known.

We all have secrets…things we have done we don’t want others to know about. And we cover those little secrets the best we can…for years. Oh, we may have never sold a brother into slavery, but we may have talked behind their back, been a little jealous, didn’t defend them when others talked about them?

Years later, God turned their sin into good years later. Joseph learned lessons through suffering. The brothers had their lives and hearts changed. God used Joseph to provide food for Israel’s family.

Our sin cannot thwart the good God wants to do in, through, and around us…

Repetitive Sin – Genesis 26

Don’t you think we would learn from the mistakes of others? Instead, we seem to repeat them.

I certainly think Abraham or Sarah, or even a herdsman, had told Isaac how Abraham had offered his mother Sarah to Pharoah, and then to Abimelech. Don’t you think he was grossed out at the thought?

And yet, when he was in a similar position, filled with fear, what did he do?

He offered his wife.

When will we learn? When will we learn to not give into fear but to trust God? When will we learn to consider loved ones as precious, deserving to be protected? When will we learn to not follow the example of others, but to do what is right in the sight of the Lord, no matter the consequences?

God, in his grace and mercy, did not give Isaac what he deserved. But there was continued conflict between he and Abimelech until they made a covenant.

God, in his grace and mercy, doesn’t always give us, at the time, what we deserve. Do we see this as grace, unmerited favor, or as an excuse to go on sinning, expecting more and more grace?

When will we learn to do what is right? 

Consequences of Sin – Genesis 17-19

In Chapter 16, we looked at Hagar, who identified God as “the one who sees.” But God doesn’t only see an abused woman in the desert, crying desperately. He also sees the sin of the masses. Genesis 6-8 shows us a time when God saw communal sin and destroyed them with a great flood. Genesis 11 showed God causing confusion amongst the people when, in their pride, they tried to make their own way to God.

Sin has consequences. God does not ignore sin.

Then the men set out from there,
and they looked down toward Sodom.

God saw the sin the people of Sodom. He wanted to include Adam in his thought process to learn about justice and mercy.

The Lord said, 
“Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do,
seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation,
and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?
For I have chosen him, that he may command his children 
and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord
by doing righteousness and justice, 
so that the Lord may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.”

God knew Sodom’s sin. But he wanted to have the conversation with Adam to show him his just judgements. He had incrediable patience with Abraham in this duel, but the message was that God will not allow sin to go unchecked.

God also wanted to show Abraham his mercy, through providing a way of escape for Lot and his family. But even then, there was judgement for Lot’s wife, who still could not separate herself from her love of the sin of the city. And even after Lot and his daughters relocated, sin learned in that city continued.

Why do we think that we can get away with sin? Why do we question the justice of God? And even when God is in the midst of saving us, offering us redemption, why are we tempted to look back?

God is a just and merciful god. 

Separation of the Nations – Genesis 11

It’s interesting that in chapter 10, in describing the descendants of Noah and their nations, it also mentions several times, “These are the sons of _____, according to their families, according to their languages, by their lands, according to their nations.”

And yet, in the sequence of the story, we have not gotten to the creation of languages or nations! So, Genesis 11 is almost like a, “let me catch you up on how that happened while we were growing families…”

Thus, the story of the tower of Babel.

I’m not going to tell it again, except to think about the power of language, of communication, of understanding people. When man had a common language, he felt he powerful enough to reach to the heavens. It seemed like the only person he strove against was God, wanting to be a God. 

With Babel, there entered a world of confusion. Can you imagine being “on the job” and all of a sudden, the man you handed the brick to doesn’t know where you wanted it placed? And when he asks you about it, you can’t understand him? I don’t know, maybe he gets mad and throws the brick at you?

All we know is that this caused the separation of nations. Evidently, people from one family could still understand each other. And in their confusion, probably got closer to each other because no one else could understand them. And, instead of staying in one place and trying to figure it out, they moved farer from others, forming their own culture.

The issue is that there is still sin, very active in the world. It would be one thing to be your own nation, people group, but when one nation or people group starts to think they are better than another, that spirit of competition that can turn so easily into sin.

Misunderstandings turn into who is right and who is wrong, which turn into who is better or more powerful. Now, we enter into an atmosphere for war, cultures dominating others for their own gain.

It’s still true today. Individuals want to feel good about themselves, so they overpower others. Nations and leaders don’t want to be “less than,” so they assert themselves to be bigger and better. Cultures and languages hinder communication, until we sit in the mess of our own sin.

Maybe this is why God allowed Babel and the creation of nations – so that we could see the devastation that comes out of our choices, our selfish choices, our ambition, to lord over others. It makes me wish for the redemption that will come with Christ, when we will be one nation again, when every tear will be wiped dry.

No more misunderstandings…

New and Old – Genesis 9

For in the image of God He made man.
As for you, be fruitful and multiply;
Populate the earth abundantly and multiply in it.”

Noah was spared, but God determined that things would be different. Mankind would be the same, and he reminds us that we are created in the image of God, and our purpose would be the same, to be fruitful and multiply.

This is the sign of the covenant
which I have established between Me
and all flesh that is on the earth.”

The creation of the rainbow was the sign of the first covenant between God and mankind. He would never destroy the earth through flood again. Can you imagine their wonder as they saw the first rainbow – it’s brilliant color floating above the earth, so real but so imagined? Roger and I still pull off the road when we see a beautiful rainbow, amazed at this floating, ethereal creation.

But then, by the end of the chapter, we’re back to the old: sin. It doesn’t seem like much, giggling about someone’s nakedness, especially after the sin of the culture that drowned a generation before. But that’s how sin starts, a giggle here and a selfishness there. It was enough to get God’s immediate attention. Noah knew his children needed to be reprimanded and took the lead of a father in disciplining his children. 

Noah knew how devasting sin could be, and how he never wanted anyone to go through judgement again.

Nor should we.

What Separation Looks Like – Genesis 4

We catch the beginning of what broken relationship with God looks like at the end of Genesis 3, especially as we visualize Adam and Eve outside of the garden, angels protecting them from entering. And even though we see God lovingly provide them clothing by the blood of skins, we have a sense that nothing will be the same again. 

Chapter 4 reminds us that the sin was not just the sin of one person or one generation, but now would be a characteristic of all mankind.

We’re told the story of Cain and Abel, reinforcing the ramifications of our choices. We don’t know if Abel knew how to chose rightly with his sacrifice, but we do know that Cain knew his choice did not please God, and he chose to rebel not against God himself, but at someone who had a relationship with God.

Just like his father, Cain had a relationship with God where they talked. God even communicated concern for him and his emotions. God even warned him against making a choice to sin and encouraged him to “rule over” his feelings, just as God warns us today through our conscious.

But Cain did not listen and gave into the sin, just like his father. 

And just like his father, he didn’t repent but made God look for him, look for a relationship with him.  Just like his father, he shirked his responsibility for the sin, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” I can’t imagine God’s restraint at that moment! Of course he was his brother’s keeper — we were created to be “helpers” of each other, completing each other, working together with God in relationship!

God’s response to Cain shifts from “Where are you?” to “What have you done?” And Cain knew what he had done. 

Separation has new meaning. Sin has new consequences.

Not only would mankind have weeds and pain, but there is a special curse from the ground for Cain. The fields would fail him. He would be a fugitive and wanderer, without a home, without relationships.

For the first time, we hear repentance. “My punishment is greater than I can bear.” What Cain could not bear was the thought that, “from your face I shall be hidden.” What brought repentance was the fear that he would no longer have relationship with God.

What did God do? He put a mark on Cain so that no person would harm him. 

But also says that “Cain went away from the presence of the Lord.” I wonder if this was continued independence on his part or if God mandated it. But we do know that there was another degree of separation between man and God as a result of Cain’s choices. 

Again, I can’t help but wonder what the world would have been like if Cain had acted differently. When God warned him about the “sin crouching,” what if he had turned to God and said, “Oh no! Help me in my anger and unbelief!” What if he didn’t make the choice to kill Abel? What if he had run to God even after killing Abel, confessed his sin and asked for forgiveness? What if he had made different choices?

What if we make different choices? How does that change our life? How does it effect the lives of others, as well as our relationship to God?

Where Are You? Genesis 3

Then the whole picture of perfection dissolves with one statement:

“Where are you?”

God created mankind like himself, in his own image, so there could be relationship, so there could be trusted dominion.

But God also left a door open to mankind. The birds, plants, animals, all followed God’s ways because of how they were created, without spirituality, without relationship that includes choice. But to mankind, he left open the door to choose to relate to him, to respond in gratitude and love, to be able to work on “dominion” together.

I have no idea of how much time passed between Adam’s creation and this choice. It must have been wonderful, God and man in perfect relationship. We get a little picture of just watching them name animals together. I imagine God bringing creatures before Adam, and Adam responding to each one in awe and admiration for what God had done. The vibrant colors, the intricate designs, the amazing ways of responding to heat and cold – they all must have amazed Adam and Eve.

And think about them in the garden, having dominion over them. Again, I don’t know completely what this means, but I would imagine the scene would have been more merry than Disney’s Goldilocks in the forest, playing with the creatures!

Then enters slithering doubt enters and everything grows dim.

I wonder if things would have been different if Adam had not tried to cover his sin with words or skins? What if he had run to find God, to confess his doubts, failings, and now new power? What if he had fallen on his knees, would have God extended forgiveness, grace and mercy in that moment?

We’ll never know, because it didn’t happen that way. No only did Adam sin, but he did not repent and ask forgiveness, blaming others who blamed others.

God, as he is all knowing, knew this was happen, but I can’t help but think it crushed his heart. He wanted Plan A to work and loved every minute that it did. But he also knew that eventually, he would need Plan B.

The rest of the Bible is Plan B, less than God’s perfection in relationship to man in his own image, and the road back to his perfection in relationship.

And he’s still calling us into relationship, “Where are you?”

How do we answer?