Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Lessons in the Land o' Goshen


New Year, new beginnings, so I’ve started another Bible read-through, and that means I’m reading Genesis right now.  I’ve read it before, had classes on it even, but still I see new things as I go.  That’s just how the Holy Spirit works.  So today I’m wondering as I read Genesis 45-47 about the course of things for the Israelites. They’ve just been reunited with their brother Joseph (the many-colored coat guy) and he’s invited them to move to Egypt.  God endorses the idea of relocating to Goshen (a sort of Egyptian suburb; Gen 46:3-4), and since God says “go” it seems this was a good thing. Indeed they are greatly blessed as a result with food and possessions.  But we also know that over the course of time they end up in horrible slavery there (over the course of the next 400 years).  So as I’m reading I’m watching for clues about what changed.  At the same time, as I write this I’m remembering that I already know that God doesn’t promise to keep us from trouble as much as he promises to be with us in the midst of it, and to keep us from being overwhelmed by it (Isaiah 43:1-5, for example).  Still it seems almost as if Israel was duped in a sense.  Maybe.  Maybe not.

And I’m also wondering about Joseph’s public works plan for getting everybody through the famine.  The Bible says the people had to PAY for the grain.  I guess that would turn our modern welfare system upside down.  But maybe there’s more going on there that I’m not understanding because I’m reading with modern eyes.  

After praying about all this I was reminded of what we often talk about when we are reading about Cain and Abel (Genesis 4)--about how we look at the outward things but God looks at the heart. The Bible says this about David’s heart--it's what God tells Samuel when he’s going to anoint young David as king.  "Don't be concerned that David doesn’t look like king material" (1 Sam. 16:7).  In other words, we can try to guess what’s going on inside a person, but ultimately only God really knows what’s going on in there. Which maybe means that although we get concerned about the circumstances (future slavery, famine, the baggage retrieval system at Heathrow, etc.), God is more concerned with our motivation and attitude and faithfulness to him in the midst of whatever’s going on.

So instead of worrying about what might happen 400 years from now, or 4 years from now, or even 4 months from now, I am reminded yet again that I just need to be concerned about what’s going on today.  Am I trusting God to work out all of the rest?  Mostly.  But even my miniscule trust gets greatly affirmed, because God’s just so amazing. A little bit of grace goes a long way.  I hope you’re finding his grace and blessing, too.


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