*******No more promises of when my project 4:4 posts will appear. I'm a 67% failure with meeting my own timeline goals, so I'm not going to put you through the uncertainty anymore.*******
I was not a great daily reader this week. I accidentally read ahead one day, so that threw me off a bit, and then I plain forgot three nights in a row. Sadly, it was an easy habit to break. I'm really praying that I get better at the daily part of the Daily Bible. I don't want to spend the year beating myself up on Saturday nights (or worse, Sunday mornings) because I haven't done my reading for the week. Sometimes it bothers me that the readings for each day are so short. I actually think I might be doing better at it, if I could read bigger chunks. But it's important to me to stay on pace for this church-wide project. The good news is that I did manage to get caught up in time to be a part of a meaningful class discussion on Sunday.
This week we finished Genesis and started Exodus, covering flannelgraph moments from the life of Joseph and early Moses and the first few plagues. In fact, Friday's reading included Moses and the burning bush, which was my younger nephew's Bible class lesson when I was at his church last weekend.
[Cute kid story alert: You really haven't heard the story of God speaking to a man from flaming shrubbery until it's been told to you by a two-year-old. Although small nephew's (let's call him the thumb of the Handful) storytelling style has not yet developed to match his Aunt Ellen's, he did a great job of recreating the pertinent facts through question and answer. The Thumb has an expressive face, giant blue eyes and some serious eyelashes, which he's not afraid to use to his advantage. Having a conversation with him is just as much about his blinks and nods and funny faces as it is about his toddler-appropriate speech impediment. My personal favorite part:
Aunt Ellen (or Aunt Michelle or Nana or Daddy--lots of people asked him about his story): But why did he take his shoes off?
Thumb: Dod told him. (In such a businesslike tone that I got the impression there should be no questioning of why God did that.)
As I have an often inappropriate habit of quoting the mispronunciations of the Handful, I've already caught myself saying "Dod" in my head a few times. I hope this isn't blasphemous. That kid is trouble.]
In my own meaningful class discussion I mentioned earlier, we didn't make it as far as Moses. Joseph's story, with its highs, lows, prophetic dreams, family dysfunction, repentance, forgiveness, and a set-up for some seriously miraculous intervention and nation-forming, was plenty of fodder for us.
Last 4:4 post, I mentioned that Jacob's story makes me wonder about cause and effect when it comes to God's dealings with these folks. Did Jacob lie and connive to get the birthright and blessing because it was God's plan for him to be Israel? Or did God look at the personalities of Jacob and Esau, anticipate the trickery, and prepare to fulfiil the promise through Jacob because he was going to come out with the blessing? Near the end of Joseph's story, I'm brought back to the same questions. In Genesis 50:20, Joseph tells his brothers, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives." Clearly, Joseph sees the path of his life as God's plan to save not only his own family but the nation of Egypt from famine and death. Talk about a higher calling. But it gives me that pause. Did Joseph's brothers sell him into slavery because God needed Joseph in Egypt? Or did God just work with the imperfections present in the sons of Israel to bring about a best possible outcome? If they'd been more forgiving of a slightly arrogant teenager, would they have died during that seven-year famine? Or would God have worked through another situation to protect his fledgling nation?
Ultimately I have to come down on the side of free will and God making lemonade out of the mess of lemons offered up by the imperfect. And you have to admire that lemonade: the patriarch and his twelve sons and all their offspring riding out a severe drought in a choice piece of land in the most advanced nation of that time. And when a lemon of a pharaoh, who doesn't know Joseph or honor the memory of his service to Egypt and fears these blessed Hebrews, forces the children of Israel into slavery, God spends 400 years preparing a miraculous, emancipating lemonade that will return His people to the land promised Abraham so they can get down to the business of becoming His people.
Because two weeks' readings split the Exodus story, the plagues, and pharaoh's hard heart--and because I have quite a bit to say about that too, I'm going to save most of those thoughts for next week.