Exodus 14

The stunning victories of God over the Egyptians. God hardens their hearts and they pursue the Israelites despite all the clear messages of the power of God above their gods.

God makes it dark, he jams the wheels of their chariots. He leads the chase a though a sea which is a wall of water for the Israelites’ and downs the Egyptians.

They are told to stop running, virtually baiting the Egyptians to come and try to get them back. But the plagues haven’t convinced the Israelites of god’s power. Keith green seized on this as a metaphor. They wanna go back to slavery, to Egypt. They are terrified when the Egyptians pursue them.

It’s worth remembering when i lose yet another argument with an atheist. You would think the Israelites would be the strongest believers ever, but they constantly question Gods power.

Exodus 4

Don’t want to be chosen.

I remember C S Lewis’ autobiography talking about being dragged “kicking and screaming” into the kingdom.

It’s hard to demand your people’s freedom from the ruler who came up with the male infanticide policy, and threaten to kill his first born. Moses has run away from a life of unique privilege because he fears he may be killed for his rash murder of an abusive Egyptian he came upon.

He’s given magical signs to show he is speaking with power. But he still doesnt want to speak to the Pharaoh.

God says memorably “who gave human beings Thier mouths” and burns with anger at his chosen.

And puts in place a plan B, to use his brother Aaron as mouthpiece.

On the journey back to Egypt, God seems to test the family is loyal to him, even though zipporah, Moses’ wife, is not an Israelite. She gets the gist the way women seem to and circumscises her first baby son.

The people, when he arrives, worship God for sending a solution, albeit a flawed one, to their slavery and persecution.

Genesis 46

The Israelites all come. It’s a list chapter. Heartfelt moment when Joseph hugs his father. 

God speaks to Jacob/Israel and promises good when they get to Egypt, and to bring them back.

It starts with a plan to keep them separate, which seems like a diplomatic win win for both peoples. The Israelites will be shepherds in goshen. It is a verdant bit of rural land near the nile Delta, it will mean geographic and cultural separation. 

They will be nomadic shepherds, something very unattractive to the urbanised Egyptians, self supporting, so no economic or social threat.

Should work out, shouldn’t it?

Anyway, sometimes it is god’s will to go to Egypt.

Genesis 42

Egypt is rich in a time of famine, under Joseph (and god’s) stewardship. The brother’s come, and so starts a multi chapter lesson in grace.

Joseph is almost toying with them. There is no question of him forgiving them. He has seen god’s plan in all of it. 

But they don’t recognise him so he sets tasks of faith for them, they must trust his words, and he engineers grace. He gives them more than they asked for, and their guilty consciences keep them in a fine state of panic the more good things happen.

They desperately need to be schooled in faith, goodness and grace. We’ve seen into some of their lives. 

This is god’s transformation of the whole family into the nation of Israel, his people.

Oh that I could be this influence.  In my family, in my world. 

I love the non preachy nature of it. Joseph is where he is by acts of grace and faith. And he demonstrates rather than speaks it to his brothers. 

Genesis 41

The epitome of the “old testament story”. In a stunning reversal of fortune, Joseph interprets Pharaoh’s dream and goes from jail to 2ic in charge of all of Egypt.

One mention of God: as the source of the dream and the interpretation. But he is directing everything.

Everyone in my immediate family is in some kind of pain. And some kind of rebellion against God. Reverse it father, reverse it!

Genesis 37

Now the story of Joseph, one of the greatest. 

It puts the brother’s behaviour in perspective knowing what a cruel bunch his brothers are, after the incident with Dinah a few chapters ago. 

Though that involved them killing a whole village from is a misguided sense of loyalty, and this involved extreme sibling rivalry.

So much comes back to Jacob’s character flaws. The brother’s are sneaky and heartless. It took Reuben, who we last saw committing quasi incest, to talk them out of actually killing him.

Joseph is comfortable at 17 bragging about being the preferred younger son. Jacob’s history repeats there.

Of course it was more than just jealousy, the family wealth was at stake. Joseph in telling his dreams about the brother’s bowing down to him was intentionally or not rubbing his brothers noses in his favoured state with their father.

It’s hard to know what to deduce about Joseph’s character from this. He’s telling the truth about his dreams about god’s future blessing on him. Was he bragging or merely honest. 

We have blessing, we aren’t to let shame about our unearned salvation mean we avoid telling others they need it. But we do. Damnation is an awkward subject with non-Christian friends. 

Was he foolish to speak of his blessedness, given his brothers history of violent greed, or simply faithful, knowing that if God has plans for him nothing they will do will forfeit them?

Joseph’s character is not clear yet. But god’s blessing is.

Zechariah 10

This is written directly with God’s voice.

The opening section is about his love and care for the people, expressed as rain and crops. He continues de-programming trust in the idols and foreign religions which the Israelites had been emersed in the past 70 years.

He talks about the fate of the two kingdoms, Judah and Ephraim. Judah will be forgiven and become strong and victory will come from them. He speaks of giving the Ephraimites – who seem to have been scattered further and for longer – warrior hearts with joy for him. Sort of like self esteem, dignity. And gathering them in from the far flung regions to which they are spread, evoking the escape from Egypt of old.

God carries out his plans though weak humans. His salvation plan was all but lost by the Israelites’ splintering and unfaithfulness.

Now they have been shaken, restored, forgiven. His character in that forgiveness is to abundantly bless them, build up their identity and strength. To be true, unlike the self serving false gods. To have compassion. To gather and protect the lost. Praise be!

Genesis 21

Grace and faith, test #1.

Sarah’s distaste for Hagar flares again when Isaac is born, and Hagar is again sent away, to Abrahams distress. It’s clear that the lord looks after Hagar though.

Abraham makes an oath with the local king abimelech to live at a well he dug and not make trouble. Abimelech is aware that God is with Abraham, through the sister thing in the last chapter, probably.

He finally settles and lives there a long time.

Praying and thinking about evil today, after the terrorist attacks in Paris.

Abraham is deeply concerned when God, managing his domestic mess to a ridiculous degree, sides with Sarah’s somewhat cruel request to send away his illegitimate son and Hagar the slave.

The great patriarch appears to have an even greater matriarch in the wings, and the defence of “wasn’t the illegitimate son your idea in the first place?” doesn’t seem to be available.

Hagar is sent away with just a water skin to show for the whole experience, and we are told that the lord miraculously saves the child and he thrives, becoming an archer and getting an Egyptian wife in due course. But Abraham doesn’t know that.

All this messed-up family have to separate them from any other banal, messed-up family is chosen-ness, God’s grace dealing intimately with their situation, balancing everyone’s feelings and achieving his purposes.

Abraham responds with faith. His extraordinary faith will shortly be put to the test more spectacularly.

Grace and faith, or to put it another way, love from and to our heavenly father, its all we got.

Genesis 15

The promise to Abram restated and filled out. This is where his people are compared to stars in number, and that amazing statement of grace “abram believed, and it was credited to him as righteousness”.  Interestingly his belief doesn’t stop him having questions and wondering how the promise could come true.  Abrams righteousness will be a life lesson and a life experience as well as an advance deposit, like mine.  God gives him a sign of sacrifice to assure him of the promise.  He also gives him a warning that it will take generations of slavery before the land is fully theirs, which is experienced as a dread in sleep, which is a feeling I had last night, strangely.  Thinking about the kids. “a thick and dreadful darkness came over him”. When I read the word dread, I recognised the feeling I had over my children. Dread and sadness, inexplicably.

The going to egypt is such a strong thread in sciptures, Abram has already done it, Irael will do it and Jesus did it after his birth.

A stunning chapter, reminds me of the psalms, the way David gets lost in talking to God.

Help me to be a good father, show me what I should do for my kids.