This week, we are completing our Bible Year 2022 journey through Genesis and moving into Exodus. Genesis gives us an origin story set in terms of the generations, beginning with the generations of creation (2:4) and leading us through the generations of the peoples who are the ancestors of the nations that will make up the stories we encounter in Genesis and beyond, especially the generations of the family line central to the story: Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Rachel.
Throughout the story we see a complexity of God’s promises to these generations at the root of the story and the sometimes faithfulness and sometimes failure to trust in God. God’s promises constituted the forming of a people who would be a blessing to other peoples/nations and a land. The wavering faithfulness both aided the connection with the God of the promises and strained it. It both gave them an identity for generations to come and strained that identity and their relationships. It both gave hope to a world of corruption and violence and helped fuel the corruption and violence.
Take, for example, the story of Joseph which we finish reading today. At the root of his story is discord and violence. He is hated by his brothers because he is favored by Jacob/Israel, whose names are both used throughout the scriptures to reflect this tension between faith and unfaith. Joseph is also arrogant, fueling the hate even more. His brothers plot to kill him only to decide to attack him and sell him into slavery and tell their father he was killed by a wild animal. God is with Joseph through a series of unfortunate events and aids him in becoming second in command only to Pharoah in Egypt.
Joseph’s circumstances put him in a position to save Egypt and the surrounding nations from famine. However, it also helps give the empire of Egypt more power over the surrounding nations when famine was seen by the ancients as divine judgment on powerful rulers. A series of events helps reunite a family. However, it also leads the family to move to Egypt, a move Joseph’s grandfather Isaac had been instructed not to make. Egypt’s increased power and the family’s move set the stage for the coming slavery of the Israelites in Egypt. The story leaves us with a family reunited, soon to bear the consequences of their actions.
This is a story that gives us the complexity of life formed by our incomplete faith while never letting us forget that the God who loves us never gives up.
Grace and peace,
Rev. J.D. Allen