Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Wrong Turned Right

We've been discussing how we judge right from wrong, and I'll get back to that stream on Friday. But your comments about God's plans and the ultimate outcome have led me to share a brief Bible study.

Genesis 44:1-17. Joseph plants the silver cup.

In this section of Genesis, we're near the end of Joseph's story. At this point, he has not yet revealed himself to his brothers, but through the "stolen" cup, he plans to give them a bit of a hard time, detain Benjamin and reunite them as a family.

In all the story of Joseph as related in Genesis, he never rails against his brothers. They betrayed him, but he focuses on survival and making the most of his opportunities. He has several gifts--good looks, dream interpretation and administration. The dream interpretation is what gets him in trouble in the first place. In Egypt, his good looks do him no favors, but eventually his gifts get him out of trouble and let him bloom where he's planted.

The lesson seems to be that one negative event, a momentary happening, can be judged in two ways. First, Joseph could have seen his betrayal as an evil that must be punished. He would be justified. I have a feeling that he tosses his brothers in prison for a few days on their first visit to release some of his anger and hurt, but he doesn't have any intention of truly harming them. Because, over time, Joseph comes to see that his betrayal was part of God's larger plan, putting Joseph in a position in which he could save not only Egypt, but also his family. There's Exquisite Timing all over this. When Joseph plants the cup, he craves his family, they still don't recognize him and he wants to delay their leaving. But he can't really bear a grudge since things worked out so much better than he could have imagined. In the end the family is reunited.

It is the same in our lives. Adversity, suffering, bad events can be part of a larger plan which we will have the privilege to understand in the future--or not. When my mother was dying, I often wondered why she had to suffer so long. Eventually, I realized that her dying and the timing of that process, provided opportunities for others to serve or to work out their own issues. It certainly provided extra time for me to come to grips with some anger and hurt I was holding. I believe that evil actions deserve to be punished, but that God will direct the ultimate outcome to good. The Life Web wants balance and support for all life. In this is ultimate outcome is my faith, my hope.

The story of Joseph (Genesis v.37 - 50) is chock full of lessons, forgiveness, humor, salvation and pathos. If you haven't read it in a while, take some time with it. Let us know what you find.

1 comment:

  1. For myself, the story of Joseph is one step in the realization of God's divine plan. It is necessary to place the Israelites in Egypt to set up the Exodus. Many scholars believe the story of Joseph was written in the time of Solomon when "God's" wisdom was valued highly. People were interested in addressing the difference between accepted justice and divine justice. It was intended to show how God works through people, who typically prove to be stubborn, disobedient, shortsighted and even unscrupulous to bring his plan to fullness. That is not to say we are puppets in his program but that if we need to remain faithful that God will overcome even in the most challenging situations. It also shows that God is not restricted by social custom of what is considered right and wrong, such as birth rite, or excepted laws for retribution. Even as the brothers try to make up for their own past wrong to save Benjamin Joseph demonstrates divine wisdom, that revenge for an act from the past will not makeup for the presumed wrong done now. Joseph wants "only the one who has presumably wrong him now" God is not vengeful, he does not hold a grudge but abounds in forgiveness. I must also learn to let go of passed wrongs in the realization that just as God has already forgiven and moved on so must I. God has already worked to make good come out of past injustice so I must not hang on to my bad feelings but look for the good that has resurrected from the wrong. Another thing that strikes me about Joseph's story is the showing of his human emotion. His love for his brothers and father was overwhelming to him. It was these emotions that he choose to let rule his decision making instead of focusing on the wrongs that were done to him. Like Joseph, I see God is similar emotional struggles. If I believe God is father to all, and I do, than I can not avoid to think of the pain he must feel when some of his children are destroying other of his children. In our world he would be justified to destroy us all but luckily for us his divine wisdom is deeper than ours.