From a burning bush to more frogs than anyone had ever seen before, from pharaoh's dreams to a family's move from home to a foreign country, from famine to reconciliation we have journeyed through scripture this week. The Joseph narrative ended, and now we are watching God work through Moses and Aaron. Life marches on relentlessly. But there is more that is relentless. God is relentlessly present and active in the lives of His people. He is relentlessly good and merciful. God is just and He never stops loving His people. There are consequences for our behaviors, but God never walks away, stops loving us, or pruning us to make us our best selves.
We talk a lot about pruning. But here’s the deal. God always meets us where we are, but He will never leave us there. He has created each of us with a purpose, a purpose that will help us grow in faith and bring Him glory. He asks us to be faithful and to trust Him. As the creator of the universe, we can rest assured He does know what He is doing. But God operates on His time frame, not ours. So, we become impatient, and we take matters into our own hands. We have seen it with Abraham and Sarah as they waited for the fulfillment of God's promise to them about descendants. As a result of that impatience Ishmael is born to Sarah's maid Hagar. The things we do are not new. God's people have been doing them since the beginning. We sin because Adam and Eve sinned. Now every human born is born in sin. That is why Jesus came, to pay the price to free us from our sins. We struggle with one another, just like Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, and Joseph and his brothers. We have favorites like Isaac, Rebekah, and Jacob. We are jealous like Sarah was of Hagar. Sometimes we are our own worst enemies, like a young Joseph. But God never abandons us. We may walk away from each other, but God never walks away...ever.
Pruning is part of our journey of faith and growth. When we look at a young Joseph, we see a spoiled, obnoxious, rotten kid. He is self-centered. His father has made no secret that Joseph is his favorite. And nobody in the family wants anything to do with him. He was that kid. God had big plans for Joseph, but He couldn't use him like he was. Joseph needed seasoning, a different perspective, and trials to make him strong and faithful. God used his brother's disobedience to accomplish part of that. Bit by bit God pruned Joseph back, deflating his big ego, humbling him in prison, tempting him with Potiphar's wife. Joseph struggled. But he also grew, just like God needed him to do. And when the time was right God moved and put Joseph exactly where He intended to all along.
The same pruning happened to Moses. He grew up a Hebrew in pharaoh's household, some believing he was being groomed to be the next pharaoh. But like Joseph, Moses needed some seasoning before he could be God's agent of deliverance. Forty years of tending sheep in the wilderness of Midian taught Moses many things. And again, when the time was right, Moses was ready...at least in God's eyes. Like Moses we often find ourselves being called by God to a task. And like Moses we often try to talk our way out of serving God in that way. We too have a myriad of excuses, some of which sound a lot like Moses. My personal favorite is saying to God, please pick on someone your own size. It hasn't worked yet but I keep trying!
This week we also looked on as Jacob gathered his sons around him to bless them before he died. These blessings were part prophecy, part character assessment and in some cases, they were actual blessings. These blessings gave us a look at the fortunes of these twelve tribes of Israel and how they would fare as they moved into the promised land. Families are like churches and businesses. They take on the personality of the leadership at the top. If the head of the family is gracious and giving, the family will be as well. If the boss is a tyrant and rules with threats and fear, the employees will cower and fail to make decisions and they will not operate at their full potential. Churches reflect the values and teachings of their leaders. All of us have influence on someone else. Look at what we have read. Abraham favored Isaac who learned it is ok to have a favorite. Isaac favored Esau and Rebekah favored Jacob. Jacob favored Joseph. We live what we have learned. We do not look a bit different than the folks we have been reading about.
The patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and now Joseph have gone the way of the world and have been gathered up to their people. There was great mourning for these men of faith. They were very human. They made mistakes. They sinned. And they worked hard to be obedient. God never left them. He made promises to these men that he has kept to this day, including the promise of a Savior made in Genesis chapter 3. As we continue to read, we will see God's faithfulness, steadfastness and love for His people. There may be times we wonder why God doesn't just walk away from some of these stiff-necked people of His. But if we look around today, we could wonder the same thing. So, we read on. The worst of the plagues comes tomorrow and at least for a brief time pharaoh relents and lets God's people leave captivity in Egypt. That means another adventure is coming!
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W