I haven't been writing lately. Something akin to a biological coup has taken place in my body this week. Everything aches: head, stomach, even my skin feels feverishly tingly. My doctor tells me my thyroid is behaving and that there's "nothing wrong" with me. It must be anxiety related, she says. But I don't feel anxious. I mean, aren't we Calvinists free from the worries of anxiety, knowing that God is over everything and actively using everything to bring about his glory and our ultimate joy?
Either way, something is off and it makes everything else feel murky and skewed. Even the well-worn tracks of the work week seem distorted and surreal, as though seen through a warped mirror. Everything reversed and disproportionate.
That's why there's been no update about the Bible reading marathon project. I'm currently in Exodus 16 but I believe I haven't posted anything since around Genesis 30. That leaves me 20 chapters in Genesis and 16 in Exodus to discuss. For the sake of my tired fingers (this is typed via iphone) I'll do Exodus tomorrow and just try to sum up the rest of Genesis tonight.
I guess we'll do quick and dirty:
Rape of Dinah (34:1-31)----did NOT like that bit very much...
Covenant renewed (35:1-15)
Birth of Benjamin, death of Rachel (35:16-21)
Sons of Jacob (35:22-26)
Death of Isaac (35:27-29)
Joseph's dreams (37:5-11)
Capture and selling of Joseph (37:12-36)
Joseph's and Potipher's house and crazy/slutty wife who tries to jump Joseph (39)
Joseph confined to prison and interprets dreams (39 - 41)
Joseph in power in Egypt (42:1-50:26)
Testing of Joseph's the brothers (42 - 44) Joseph revealed (45:1-15)
Jacob comes to Egypt (46:1-7)
Jacob "blesses" his sons (49:1-27)
Death of Jacob (49:28-33)
Uneasy reconciliation between Joseph and his brothers (50:15-21)
Joseph's last words and death (50:22-26)
There's a lot there, but Joseph's steadfast faith in God is the great walrus among the many fishes ( that terrible analogy was for you, Jusje, my dear).
His brothers hate him, want to kill him, settle on selling him as a slave to a foreign power, and yet he forgives them. More than that, Joseph sees his life and all of his suffering from a cosmic perspective.
"But Joseph said to them, "Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today." (Genesis 50:18-20)
It must have felt devastating to Joseph to have every huge act of faith in his life be met with swift and instantaneous suffering. But this wasn't a sign of God's punishment to Joseph but of his grace. "For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." - (Philippians 2:13)
That's hard to wrap my mind around. It's so easy to believe that good deeds = blessings and bad deeds = punishment. But if I take that logic to the end I find only my own just isolation and banishment from the Creator. Rather, in God's grace, through Christ's payment of my debt, I am free to grow from every circumstance toward a deeper and closer relationship with God. No longer does my sin bar me from a relationship with him, but rather I am blessed when I suffer because I am doing it for him and because of his sacrifice for me. And some how the Holy Spirit uses my suffering to transform my heart. "Then [the apostles] left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name." - (Acts 5:29)
"As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful." - (James 5:10-11)
"Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you." (1 Peter 4:12-14)
John Piper says :
"Joseph's trip to Egypt, even though forced upon him as a slave, was also a way-preparing mission. He says at the end to his brothers, "God sent me before you to preserve life . . . God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors" (Genesis 45:5, 7).
In the biblical account it's tempting to only see Joseph's heroic character and achievements. But God does not want us to miss the largely silent, desperate years Joseph endured. Imagine the pain of his brothers' betrayal, the separation from his father, the horror of slavery, the seduction and false accusation by Potiphar's wife, and the desperation he felt as his youth passed away in prison.
Sometimes faithfulness to God and his word sets us on a course where circumstances get worse, not better. It is then that knowing God's promises and his ways are crucial. Faith in God's future grace for us is what sustains us in those desperate moments.
We all love the fairytale ending of Joseph's story. And we should, because Joseph's life is a foreshadowing of a heavenly reality. God sent his Son to die and be raised in order to set his children "free indeed" (John 8:36). There is coming a day when those who are faithful, even to death (Revelation 2:10) will hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master" (Matthew 25:21).
Our current circumstances, however dismal or successful, are not our story's end. They are chapters in a much larger story that really does have a happily ever after.
"Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord" (Psalm 31:24)!"
And since I'm no John Piper, I'll leave it at that.