Monday, March 8, 2010

Pray-Along. Part Ten

(If you're just joining me now, I'm in the midst of a day-long intentional time of prayer. Please join me. I'm praying for my kids, and all those kids that God has laid on my heart to love.)

We have just finished the  Joseph series at Northview, and while I love the 'story' of Joseph and the way that God used that which others intended for harm for His purposes and glory - I REALLY love the B-storyline better. It's Judah's story - and it's one of transformation. If you only listen to one message from the series, give this one an hour of your time. If you don't have time, let me sum it up for you: “What you see today in the lives of the rebellious is not the end of the story."

There is such hope in that, yes?

I had a holy echo regarding the Joseph/Judah story recently... a few days after Jeff preached the above sermon, I read the following devotional in Arrow's Lenten Devotional:

The sting operation has always been savored by storytellers: the ensnarer snared, the cheater cheated, the trickster tricked. It takes audacity and duplicity to pull this sort of thing off. It takes steel nerves, and deep cunning, and a wide streak of mischief. From Aesop’s Fables, to Coast Salish legends, to Hollywood movies, we relish these stories.

But in the Bible? And from one of its premier heroes, Joseph? The ruse involves Joseph telling two bold-faced lies: accusing his brothers of stealing the cup that he himself had smuggled into their luggage, and telling them that he “divined” their thievery. Indeed, this entire drama hinges on a massive subterfuge, Joseph’s hidden identity.

Redemption is messy. The story of God’s rescue and reconciliation – and this is certainly that kind of story – rarely aligns with the neat moral categories we learned in Sunday school. The cast of characters God chooses to work in and through and in spite of are mostly an unlikely bunch of misfits. Even the best of them – Joseph! – have underbellies.

What are we to make of this?

At minimum, this: God’s purposes prevail. God works in, through and around human folly and weakness to accomplish divine good.

But the storyteller in Genesis is blithely uncaring about our moral scruples. He’s telling a different story here. Not the least, he depicts a potent undoing of evil. The brothers who sold Joseph into captivity, indifferent to their father’s grief, now walk in the opposite direction. They would rather die than break their father’s heart again. Indeed, it’s Judah, the one who wanted to sell Joseph rather than kill him - to not only be rid of him, but to profit from it - who is now willing to make “substitutionary atonement” for Benjamin.

The God who can change human hearts this deeply is surely at work in whatever messes you might be in the middle of.

Dear God,

Help me to trust You even when I can't see You. And help me to see beneath the surface of things, to see Your purposes being out within, through and sometimes in spite of my circumstances. Amen

(Written by Arrow Alumnus Mark Buchanan, author of The Rest of God.)

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