The Bible Challenge – Days 16 & 17

18 Apr

The 6 chapters of Genesis that we’ve read the past couple of days take us through Joseph’s rise in power in Egypt, especially after favorably interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams.  Because of Pharaoh’s dreams Joseph predicts 7 years of prosperity and 7 years of famine, and Joseph becomes governor over all of Egypt, first gathering the abundance and then rationing out the stores during the famine.

Joseph encounters his brothers for the first time in years, and we have a powerfully emotional exchange — they come asking for food, and he gives it to them for free (placing their money back into their bags)… but Joseph is vindictive, just a little… he accuses them of being spies, and puts them in prison for three days.  He tells them to come back with the youngest brother, Benjamin, and Simeon must stay in Egypt until they return.  They return the next year, with Benjamin and twice the amount of money (to repay for the previous time).  More trickery awaits them — they are invited to dinner at Joseph’s house, and Joseph places a silver cup in their food bags, along with all of the money they brought.  He has his guard find them as they leave and accuse them of stealing, and they are caught with the cup.  But Joseph doesn’t let the act go on too long, and he eventually reveals himself to his brothers.  And sends them off to tell their father to move to Egypt, and live in Goshen.  His father rejoices.

Matthew 14 & 15:  We hear about the death of John the Baptist, at the hand of a cowardly Herod.  An act spurred by lust and pride.  It doesn’t say so, but Jesus seems to need some time to process the news of his cousin’s death.  John the Baptist was a friend, partner in mission, and some thing maybe even an early teacher/mentor to Jesus.  Jesus seeks some solitude, and withdraws to a deserted place.  But solitude is hard to find for Jesus.  It isn’t long before the crowd of followers finds him… and he takes the opportunity to impart the Good News.  When it is late the disciples are worried about what the folks might eat!  Jesus assures the disciples they have enough to feed everybody.  With five loaves of bread and two fish they feed several thousand people (it says 5000 men plus women and children) with food leftover.  The abundance of God!  We are richly blessed, even in meager times.  In loving community, and in prayer will we find what we need.  It can be hard to see abundance during difficult times… it can be hard to believe in the awesome power of God in our lives when we are feeling overwhelmed.  The indwelling Spirit of God works within each of us, the power of God is in our midst.  Doubt is natural, and OK.  Jesus asks Peter to walk on water, and Peter doubts, but Jesus doesn’t let him fall too far before helping him up.

Jesus challenges the Pharisees, “the blind leading the blind,” who think that Jesus’ disciples are disobedient to God’s law when they eat without first ritually washing their hands.  “It’s not what goes in, but what comes out that defiles.”  This is interesting — Jesus suggests that what is in our hearts are evil thoughts and desires.  But, weren’t we created in the image of God?  I think that we have the capacity for good and evil.  Let us strive for good, and open our hearts to the Holy Spirit to transform us even more to be like Christ in the world.

And what about the Canaanite women? Is not even Jesus transformed by his encounter with this persistent and faithful woman?

And then we have a similar loaves and fishes story.  They feed 4000 men plus women and children with seven loaves of bread and a few fish.  What do you think about these two similar tales?


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