Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. Genesis 15:13-15
And Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child away and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed him.When the child grew older, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son. She named him Moses, “Because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.” Exodus 2:9-10
I can only imagine the despair and hopelessness that would set in after 400 years of affliction, and generation after generation born into slavery. Even with amazing stories of God’s work among and through their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph, the Hebrew slaves in Egypt had to have lost their hope in the God of their fathers. After some 400 years of virtual silence, there had to have been a strong feeling of God turning his back on them, or even abandoning them altogether. And the tiny miracle of Moses’ life being spared and being raised in Pharaoh’s palace would likely have been completely missed or overlooked by the vast majority of those slaves. It would be 80 more years of slave labor before that tiny little miracle would even begin to bear fruit. Good news: God has a plan and in another 80 years or so, He will launch it!
When we (either individually or even as a church) find ourselves in such a hard season of slavery or hard work or otherwise feeling that God is …
…and I bowed down and worshiped the Lord. I praised the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me on the right road to get the granddaughter of my master’s brother for his son. Genesis 24:48
Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest. Hebrews 3:1
For pilots, learning to fly by instruments is an important skill. It is what a pilot must do when all the other more conventional ways of “getting your bearings” fall by the wayside. When darkness and weather and confusion and chaos make it difficult to figure out which way is up and which way is down, all a pilot has left is the cockpit instruments.
I was reminded of that when I found myself preparing a lesson from the story of Isaac and Rebekah. It is a story chock full of ancient culture about betrothal and marriage and what seems to our modern world to be a horribly flawed and archaic and unromantic matrimonial system. At first glance, it is not an easy task pulling relevant truths out of this story…truths which we can apply to our lives today. It would be easy to read this unusual story about marriage and lose your bearings trying to find a lesson.
For example, Abraham sent his servant off to a faraway land to find a wife for his (Abraham’s) son. O.K., not gonna learn from that…for so many reasons. The servant chose a blood cousin of the groom to be the bride…this would become a pattern for this family. Not gonna use that lesson either. The bride’s family blessed her, saying, “May your offspring possess the cities of their enemies!” Um…no. Then there is …
The man asked him, “What is your name?”
“Jacob,” he answered.
Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.”
Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”
But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.
So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”
I believe the most difficult thing about the process of reconciliation is getting started…going to the brother in the first place. Most of us can think of hundreds, maybe thousands of reasons why NOT to do it. “He’s the one who needs to be coming to me…when he does, we can talk.” “Why would I go back to her to talk about it? She’s the one who hurt me in the first place!” “He won’t listen. He never listens. It won’t do any good.” “I don’t want to put our friendship in that kind of jeopardy.” And the excuses go on and on and on. But none of them are good excuses, especially in the face of ALL the scripture that tells us we must be reconciled to each other as Christians. Hey, if you are waiting on a word from God about whether or not you should go to your Christian brother or sister and be reconciled, all I can tell you is…pick up your Bible and read it.
God’s call to you to go and be reconciled to your brother is every bit as clear as God’s call to Jacob (Genesis 31) to go back to the land of his father in order to be reconciled to his brother Esau. If you know that story, you know …
Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.
I am pretty sure there is nothing at all natural about confession and forgiveness. I think that, among the Spiritual ramifications of the fall of man, there is this part of the human condition which makes saying “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you” difficult words for us to form. It feels almost counter intuitive. It doesn’t come naturally to anyone.
So, I’m reading the story of Joseph and his brothers and how they sold him into slavery and then told his father he had been killed. He eventually got resold into the house of Pharaoh and later would rise to become second in command for all of Egypt (o.k., I skipped some of the story). It is now many years later when he sees his brothers for the first time. An ironic twist in the story is that they do not recognize him. He sends them back home without disclosing his true identity and keeps one of them in prison while he awaits their return. We don’t know how long they’re gone, but it is at least “seasons”, all the while he is keeping one of his brothers in prison. Eventually, after they return to him, he discloses his true identity and he forgives them. It is an awesome moment in the scriptures, one of my favorite stories.
Joseph is such a lovable and nearly perfect character, one might easily miss the fact that it took him a pretty long time to choose forgiveness. He kept one poor brother in his prison the entire time he pondered his options. It was not a choice that came naturally for him. He had to draw upon something else to come to that conclusion. …