Friday, February 10, 2023

Dysfunction with Direction: Readings in Genesis- Final Post

Unfortunately, there isn't a lot of inspired holy living among the patriarchal families. The tangled web of sin and deceit leaves a foul wake and yes, it can almost be discouraging.

Genesis has all of the elements of sinful human nature.... absolutely nothing is left out.

Are any of the sons of Abraham heroic? Not really. All of them show growth in the direction of trusting God but not without many failings and shortcomings. The hero is God. How He puts up with us is unbelievable!

I do want to credit Marty Solomon of the Bema podcast for a fascinating intellectual and stimulating analysis of the chiasms and parallel elements of these passages in Genesis. It is so interesting to see the depth and complexity of the Word of God.

The last stories in Genesis are even more concerning... is this family ever going to realize the covenant promise of God to Abraham?

Genesis 37:18–22 They saw (Joseph) from afar, and before he came near to them they conspired against him to kill him. [19] They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. [20] Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits. Then we will say that a fierce animal has devoured him, and we will see what will become of his dreams.” [21] But when Reuben heard it, he rescued him out of their hands, saying, “Let us not take his life.” [22] And Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but do not lay a hand on him”—that he might rescue him out of their hand to restore him to his father. (ESV)

Then, for some reason, Reuben leaves the others and while away, the brothers change plans and sell him to the Ishmaelites. I don't have any idea WHY Reuben left, but the family is splintering right before our eyes.

It could be he leaves to let the brothers do as they wish or he is trying to have plausible deniability. The bottom line is that this family still lives lives of deceit, deception, and manipulation.

.Genesis 37:25–27 [25] Then they sat down to eat. And looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing gum, balm, and myrrh, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. [26] Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? [27] Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and let not our hand be upon him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers listened to him. (ESV)

Genesis 37:29–34 [29] When Reuben returned to the pit and saw that Joseph was not in the pit, he tore his clothes [30] and returned to his brothers and said, “The boy is gone, and I, where shall I go?” [31] Then they took Joseph’s robe and slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood. [32] And they sent the robe of many colors and brought it to their father and said, “This we have found; please identify whether it is your son’s robe or not.” [33] And he identified ( 'nakar' ) it and said, “It is my son’s robe. A fierce animal has devoured him. Joseph is without doubt torn to pieces.” [34] Then Jacob tore his garments and put sackcloth on his loins and mourned for his son many days. (ESV)

Genesis 38 continues this sad, broken, mess of a family. The narrative leaves Joseph for a chapter and adds a new account on Judah. 

Judah was one of Leah’s sons, and Leah was the wife that Jacob didn’t love. Judah was also the patriarch of the lineage of King David and Jesus. 

We need to know the cultural background to understand the story. Levirate marriage (a custom of the ancient Hebrews and other peoples by which a man may be obliged to marry his brother's widow) was a practice in the ancient Near East that was later codified in Deuteronomy 25 as part of the Mosaic law. Basically, it meant that if a man died before he had a child, his brother had to marry his wife, and their first child would carry on the first (dead) brother’s name and place in the lineage.

Judah had three sons: Er, Onan, and Shelah. Er married a woman named Tamar, and Er was so evil that he died. Onan married Tamar, but didn’t want to preserve his brother’s place in the lineage, and so he did not impregnate Tamar, and was killed for that sin. Judah had seen both of his sons die after marrying Tamar, so he hid Shelah away and kept him from Tamar. And I am leaving out a lot of strange and perverted information in the text!

Tamar, the widow who had the right to bear Judah’s eldest son’s child and continue the family line, develops a twisted plan of her own. She dresses as a prostitute and tempts Judah.

When Judah saw her (Tamar), he thought she was a prostitute, for she had covered her face. [16] He turned to her at the roadside and said, “Come, let me come in to you,” for he did not know that she was his daughter-in-law. She said, “What will you give me, that you may come in to me?” [17] He answered, “I will send you a young goat from the flock.” And she said, “If you give me a pledge, until you send it—” [18] He said, “What pledge shall I give you?” (The pledge for the  payment for prostitution) She replied, “Your signet and your cord and your staff that is in your hand.” So he gave them to her and went in to her, and she conceived by him. [19] Then she arose and went away, and taking off her veil she put on the garments of her widowhood.

[24] About three months later Judah was told, “Tamar your daughter-in-law has been immoral. Moreover, she is pregnant by immorality.” And Judah said, “Bring her out, and let her be burned.” [25] As she was being brought out, she sent word to her father-in-law, “By the man to whom these belong, I am pregnant.” And she said, “Please identify  whose these are, the signet and the cord and the staff.” [26] Then Judah identified ( 'nakar' ) them and said, “She is more righteous than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.” And he did not know her again. (ESV)

This moment eerily parallels the presentation of the bloody coat to Jacob years earlier. Now, the presentation of the cord and signet makes Judah recognize that no one escapes the sovereign reach of God. Thus the Lord coordinates these moments to correct His wayward children. 

He corrects in consequences at times, He corrects in blessings at times. He is God and His plan and ways are beyond our comprehension. But until we (Nakar) identify the problems and recognize the situation, we will be lost!

God is in the mess, He directs the mess, He loves us in the mess, He rebukes the mess, and He is moving everything (eventually) beyond the mess.

The family always gets moved by God toward forgiveness.... but it is not the natural inclination.
The family always gets moved by God toward trust in God.... but it is not the natural inclination.

I used to think that Joseph was better, but not so.  But the later Abraham is better than the earlier version. The later Isaac is better, the later Jacob is better, the later Joseph is better. But none are good enough to stand on their own record of righteousness.

But as discouraging these stories can be (even though they are VERY interesting) the last chapter of Genesis comes to a culminating victorious restoration. 

 But Joseph said to them (the dysfunctional family), “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? [20] 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. [21] So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. (Genesis 50:19–21 ESV)

What about your family and mine? We dress up nicely, we go to church, we smile for instagram pictures, and we publicize our goodness.

But the sin and dysfunction is everywhere.

The great escape is to embrace the promises of God. HE is in control, He is there and He cares. He LOVES! Do you believe that?

He is moving all of us beyond the mess! But is it a messy journey of failings and mis-steps.

[3] If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities,

O Lord, who could stand?

[4] But with you there is forgiveness,

that you may be feared. (Psalm 130:3–4 ESV)

I close Genesis with a powerful message from Peter:

 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, [4] by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. (2 Peter 1:3–4 ESV)

May we not drown in a sea of sin and shame.... we are who we are... but we can also be moving towards what He wants us to be.

We have to learn to forgive, to love, to understand, to accept, and to trust that God is the sovereign King.

And we have to be partakers of His nature to have even a sliver of a chance to make it.

Thank you God for grace!

Genesis wore me out and delivered a lot of sleepless nights, but it is one amazing book!

No comments: