Category Archives: faith

When Other Becomes Our

Henry Ossawa Tanner – Moses in the Bullrushes

Then, a new king, who knew nothing about Joseph, came to power in Egypt. He said to his people, “These Israelites are so numerous and strong that they are a threat to us. 10 In case of war they might join our enemies in order to fight against us, and might escape from the country. We must find some way to keep them from becoming even more numerous.” 11 So the Egyptians put slave drivers over them to crush their spirits with hard labor. The Israelites built the cities of Pithom and Rameses to serve as supply centers for the king. 12 But the more the Egyptians oppressed the Israelites, the more they increased in number and the farther they spread through the land. The Egyptians came to fear the Israelites 13-14 and made their lives miserable by forcing them into cruel slavery. They made them work on their building projects and in their fields, and they had no pity on them.

15 Then the king of Egypt spoke to Shiphrah and Puah, the two midwives who helped the Hebrew women. 16 “When you help the Hebrew women give birth,” he said to them, “kill the baby if it is a boy; but if it is a girl, let it live.” 17 But the midwives were God-fearing and so did not obey the king; instead, they let the boys live. 18 So the king sent for the midwives and asked them, “Why are you doing this? Why are you letting the boys live?”

19 They answered, “The Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they give birth easily, and their babies are born before either of us gets there.” 20-21 Because the midwives were God-fearing, God was good to them and gave them families of their own. And the Israelites continued to increase and become strong. 22 Finally the king issued a command to all his people: “Take every newborn Hebrew boy and throw him into the Nile, but let all the girls live.”

The Birth of Moses

During this time a man from the tribe of Levi married a woman of his own tribe, and she bore him a son. When she saw what a fine baby he was, she hid him for three months. But when she could not hide him any longer, she took a basket made of reeds and covered it with tar to make it watertight. She put the baby in it and then placed it in the tall grass at the edge of the river. The baby’s sister stood some distance away to see what would happen to him.

The king’s daughter came down to the river to bathe, while her servants walked along the bank. Suddenly she noticed the basket in the tall grass and sent a slave woman to get it. The princess opened it and saw a baby boy. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said.

Then his sister asked her, “Shall I go and call a Hebrew woman to nurse the baby for you?”

“Please do,” she answered. So the girl went and brought the baby’s own mother. The princess told the woman, “Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you.” So she took the baby and nursed him. 10 Later, when the child was old enough, she took him to the king’s daughter, who adopted him as her own son. She said to herself, “I pulled him out of the water, and so I name him Moses.”

Exodus 1:8-2:10

He didn’t know
why there were so many Israelites in Egypt.
He didn’t know
how Joseph had saved us,
that it is because him any of us
are still here,
that he was the one
who organised us
in our fight against the famine,
he was the reason we didn’t starve.
His family prospered
only because we all did.

But
this king
knew nothing of that.
he saw only
those he perceived as ‘foreigners’
overrunning ‘his’ land;
People he thought of as ‘other’
prospering
where he thought his people
should be.

In fear
he acted to keep them down,
crush their spirit,
make life difficult,
reduce their numbers.

Yet the more he oppressed them,
the greater they grew.
Hard work,
menial tasks
and slave labour could not keep them down.

So he thought he would
go straight to the route of the problem.
Get rid
of every new born male.
That should soon
bring them into line,
stop them growing.

But he hadn’t reckoned
with the love of one woman,
unwilling to let her child go,
and another
who felt the same.
A baby
kept safe by his mother,
discovered by the Princess
and kept safe.
However much her father
considered him other,
she now called him her own.
One of the very children
the King was trying to rid himself of,
ultimately brought up under his own roof.

Man plots,
but God will always find a way.

Forgive me Lord,
when I fear the other,
their success
and well being.

Save me,
when I jump to conclusions
without finding out
the truth.

Forgive me
when I act from what I think I know
and make others suffer.

Thank you for those who love
and those who have courage
to stand up for that love.

Bless those
who are care givers,
whatever the situation.

Thank you
that you
are always working.

1. Almighty Father, who dost give
The gift of life to all who live,
Look down on all earth’s sin and strife,
And lift us to a nobler life.

2. Lift up our hearts, O King of kings,
To brighter hopes and kindlier things;
To visions of a larger good,
And holier dreams of brotherhood.

3. Thy world is weary of its pain;
Of selfish greed and fruitless gain;
Of tarnished honor, falsely strong,
And all its ancient deeds of wrong.

4. Hear Thou the prayer Thy servants pray,
Uprising from all lands today,
And o’er the vanquished powers of sin,
O bring Thy great salvation in.

The Offer of Forgiveness and Hope

Do you remember me?
Have you wondered about me,
cared if I was dead
or alive?
Or what I was doing?
Have you been able to live,
with what you did?

The first thing I need to know
is if my father,
my precious father
is still alive?

Will he know
that I am here,
safe,
his son?

I can see your fear,
are you wondering what I will do?
If I will seek revenge
now that I ave all the power?

But I don’t blame you
and you mustn’t blame yourselves.
God has worked it all out,
through the results
of your spite and anger,
through my fear and panic
of where I was going
and what was
going to happen to me.

Through being
in this place,
at this time,
I have been able to help,
maybe even save people.

Now it is my time to bless.

Even you,
however you treated me,
are welcome here.

Together
we will work it out.

It’s him!
Now we are for it.

All those things we did to him,
the revenge we wrought on him,
the cruelty we poured on him.

We never thought
we would see him again,
thought he was out
of our lives forever,

and now
he is in charge

And now,
he is the one to save us.

all those dreams,
his boasts
are coming true.
They weren’t dreams after all
they were visions,
truths,
of where we are now.

Will he want his payback?
Are we going to suffer
for what we did to him?

But no.
He is saying that God has worked in it,
taken our cruelty
and brought Joseph to a good place.

He has the choice
and is welcoming us,
accepting us,
forgiving us,

and offering us a new hope
and a new life.
Living together with him


Thank you Lord
for the forgiveness you offer us.

For meeting us in our place
of embarrassment
and shame.

For lifting that from us
and giving us
the offer
of a new life
and a new hope.

Forgive us
for the hurt we have caused to others,
as we pray for those people,
and seek to live a new way.

Thank you for those who forgive us
and are willing to accept us
and work with us.

Teach me Lord
the way of forgiveness
and new life.

The words of this song are beautiful and very apt.

Joseph Tells His Brothers Who He Is

45 Joseph was no longer able to control his feelings in front of his servants, so he ordered them all to leave the room. No one else was with him when Joseph told his brothers who he was. He cried with such loud sobs that the Egyptians heard it, and the news was taken to the king’s palace. Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?” But when his brothers heard this, they were so terrified that they could not answer. Then Joseph said to them, “Please come closer.” They did, and he said, “I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. Now do not be upset or blame yourselves because you sold me here. It was really God who sent me ahead of you to save people’s lives. This is only the second year of famine in the land; there will be five more years in which there will be neither ploughing nor reaping. God sent me ahead of you to rescue you in this amazing way and to make sure that you and your descendants survive. So it was not really you who sent me here, but God. He has made me the king’s highest official. I am in charge of his whole country; I am the ruler of all Egypt.

“Now hurry back to my father and tell him that this is what his son Joseph says: ‘God has made me ruler of all Egypt; come to me without delay. 10 You can live in the region of Goshen, where you can be near me—you, your children, your grandchildren, your sheep, your goats, your cattle, and everything else that you have. 11 If you are in Goshen, I can take care of you. There will still be five years of famine; and I do not want you, your family, and your livestock to starve.’”

12 Joseph continued, “Now all of you, and you too, Benjamin, can see that I am really Joseph. 13 Tell my father how powerful I am here in Egypt and tell him about everything that you have seen. Then hurry and bring him here.”

14 He threw his arms around his brother Benjamin and began to cry; Benjamin also cried as he hugged him. 15 Then, still weeping, he embraced each of his brothers and kissed them. After that, his brothers began to talk with him.

Genesis 45:1-15 GNT

A Favourite Son and Repeating the Mistakes of the Past

The life of Jacob

A fair bit of water has passed under the bridge since last weeks reading about Jacob. He has met with Esau at an emotional reunion; there is the shocking incident of rape against Jacob’s daughter and ensuing retribution; Jacob’s escape to Bethel, the building of an altar, God’s further blessing and a reiteration that Jacob’s name would now be Israel, the promise of the land and an entire nation of descendants; the death of Jacob’s beloved Rachel as she gave birth to Benjamin; and the death of Jacob’s father Isaac. Meanwhile Esau had been living in “another land” (Genesis 33-36)

And now we come to the life and times of Jacob’s sons. A collection of brothers and half brothers with four different mothers: Leah, who was not Jacob’s first choice of wife, but a marriage he was tricked into by his father-in-law; Bilhah, Rachel’s slave, who Rachel ‘gave’ to Jacob so that she could have a child for her; Zilpah, Leah’s slave, who she ‘gave’ to Jacob to have children for her; and finally Rachel has her two sons.

Even allowing for a different cultural setting this must have been a melting pot emotions, jealousies and jostling for your place in this family.

Joseph and His Brothers

37 Jacob continued to live in the land of Canaan, where his father had lived, and this is the story of Jacob’s family.

Joseph, a young man of seventeen, took care of the sheep and goats with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s concubines. He brought bad reports to his father about what his brothers were doing.

Jacob loved Joseph more than all his other sons, because he had been born to him when he was old. He made a long robe with full sleeves for him. When his brothers saw that their father loved Joseph more than he loved them, they hated their brother so much that they would not speak to him in a friendly manner.

Joseph Is Sold and Taken to Egypt

12 One day when Joseph’s brothers had gone to Shechem to take care of their father’s flock, 13 Jacob said to Joseph, “I want you to go to Shechem, where your brothers are taking care of the flock.”

Joseph answered, “I am ready.”

14 His father told him, “Go and see if your brothers are safe and if the flock is all right; then come back and tell me.” So his father sent him on his way from Hebron Valley.

Joseph arrived at Shechem 15 and was wandering around in the country when a man saw him and asked him, “What are you looking for?”

16 “I am looking for my brothers, who are taking care of their flock,” he answered. “Can you tell me where they are?”

17 The man said, “They have already left. I heard them say that they were going to Dothan.” So Joseph went after his brothers and found them at Dothan.

18 They saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted against him and decided to kill him. 19 They said to one another, “Here comes that dreamer. 20 Come on now, let’s kill him and throw his body into one of the dry wells. We can say that a wild animal killed him. Then we will see what becomes of his dreams.”

21 Reuben heard them and tried to save Joseph. “Let’s not kill him,” he said. 22 “Just throw him into this well in the wilderness, but don’t hurt him.” He said this, planning to save him from them and send him back to his father. 23 When Joseph came up to his brothers, they ripped off his long robe with full sleeves. 24 Then they took him and threw him into the well, which was dry.

25 While they were eating, they suddenly saw a group of Ishmaelites traveling from Gilead to Egypt. Their camels were loaded with spices and resins. 26 Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain by killing our brother and covering up the murder? 27 Let’s sell him to these Ishmaelites. Then we won’t have to hurt him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.” His brothers agreed, 28 and when some Midianite traders came by, the brothers pulled Joseph out of the well and sold him for twenty pieces of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt.

Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28

It is difficult to read this story and not be influenced by anything Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber have already said and portrayed! But we’ll give it a go.

What was Jacob doing? It is parenting 101 that you do not have favourites, and certainly no child or it’s siblings should have the feeling that one is more special than any others. Yet that seems to be the feeling that they all understand – and so inevitably that brings trouble. Was Jacob still playing out his childhood experiences of when he had been his mother’s favourite and his brother was his father’s favourite? Had he learned nothing of the life-time damage such blatant favouritism can cause?

Joseph bring back reports to his father of his brothers misdemeanours. Telling tales? Stirring? Naivety? Trying to cement his place as his father’s number one? Or genuinely thinking he was doing the right thing because they were doing the wrong thing and his father should know? Most likely a combination – we will never know. But that was how it was. At times that is how families play out.

But Jacob makes a show of his favouritism of Joseph the presentation of the infamous coat.

That for his brothers was the final straw. They could no longer bear Joseph.

Jacob sends Joseph out to check on his brothers and the flock, and even as they see him coming, they decide he has to go. Perhaps they thought he was coming to take back more tales of what they had got wrong, or perhaps their jealousies just overwhelmed them. The plot to kill him and say he has been killed by a wild animal forms in their minds, and a plan is made. Reuben is the lone voice, petitioning for his survival – though even he is content to leave him in a well in the wilderness, where one would assume he would be unlikely to survive.

The arrival of a camel train on it’s way to Egypt turns their minds to a different solution though – and the opportunity to make some money. They appear to have a realisation that this is actually their brother, so maybe they can get him out of their lives, and out of their fathers spotlight, via different means.

Joseph is gone from their lives and they have twenty pieces of silver.

(I’ve never noticed before the echo of the pieces of silver… Joseph is out of his brothers lives for twenty pieces of silver, Jesus was out of the lives of the Chief Priests for thirty (Mtt 26:14-16) )

This is a tale of the mess some humans can get themselves in to. One action leads to another, which escalates out of control. An error made in one generation is perpetuated in the next, with similar awful consequences. God is seemingly absent in this whole sorry story. Yet…

Not wishing to give away the rest of the story, the events of this passage eventually lead to Joseph being in the right place at the right time and able to do a lot of good (though ultimately that becomes a problem!) Not that Joseph’s brothers were in the right or did the correct thing, but that sometimes circumstances that humans make a mess of can ultimately work out. God was not in the jealousies and the plotting, but he was still able to work in the result.

This story is part of the Old Testament cycle of something going wrong, God stepping in and doing something amazing, the people go ‘Oh wow God, you’re awesome!’, then they forget about him and do what they want, it goes wrong – and so it goes on. God is constantly doing powerful, wonderful things; and people quickly forget and try and make things happen their way.

It is so easy to get caught up in cycles of behaviour. For our actions to come from how we are feeling and not what we know, deep down, is the correct way; to react from our pain, confusion and anger, whether temporary or long nurtured. None of us is exempt or faultless.

My overwhelming reaction to this story, which is so familiar it is hard to get a handle on, is of confession and prayer.

Forgive me Lord
for the times I get things very wrong.
When I go my way,
do my thing
and expect you to bless it;
rather than seeking your way
and doing that.

Forgive me my stupidity,
the actions I take
that have bad effects on others,
the times I let my anger,
jealousy
or frustration
rule my head,
my heart
and my actions.

Forgive me
when I perpetuate
the errors of the past,
when I fail to see the cycle,
or refuse to break it.

Heal me Lord
from the scars
that make me
react badly
and make wrong choices.
Free me
from how I think
and lead me to what you think.

Amen