Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28; I Kings 19:9-18; Psalm 85:8-13; Matthew 14:22-33; Romans 10:5-15
I Kings 19:9-18
The prophet Elijah has just experienced the power of God in an amazing and dramatic spectacle. Read about it in chapter 18. He had challenged, and stood up to, the threatening 150 prophets of Baal. Not only did Elijah ‘out amazing them’ all, but by the end of this story, the false prophets were killed. It was an exciting and exhausting day, Elijah walked away with the awe of all the people. All the people except for one, that is, King Ahab ran home and told his wife Jezebel, a far more frightening person than the false prophets. Jezebel was furious – people knew to hide when the King’s wife was not happy – they also knew to just give up and surrender to death if she held a grudge against you. She sent a note directly to Elijah promising to kill him within 24 hours, in the same manner he had killed the prophets.
Even though Elijah had just seen the power of God on full display through him, he still reacted to Jezebel’s threat with great fear and anxiety. Elijah ran away, God sustained him through his run but eventually asked him why he was running away. ‘What are you doing here?’ God asked. God was not pleased that Elijah had allowed fear to grip him following such an amazing act that should affirm his trust in God.
Notice, notice the aspect of silence and the presence of God, remember this also as you read the story the calming silence following Jesus climbing into the boat with the disciples. How often do you miss the appearance of God, or his works, because it is in silence, or some other unexpected form, that you are not expecting?
Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28
We are now beginning the story of the favorite son of Jacob – Joseph. As we have seen, Jacob has a very sordid past, especially when it comes to family relationships. This past Sunday we saw Jacob’s movement towards transformation as he wrestled God for an entire night. However, Jacob still had some very rough edges after his struggle with God. Probably the worst, and the most applicable rough edge seen in the story of Joesph is his propensity to show blatant favoritism in this family. His favorite wife was Rachel, who was the mother of his favorite son Joseph. Everyone knew this was true, his other wife Leah, the servants who had birthed many of his other children, and all the other children, especially Joseph’s brothers. To aggravate matters worse, Joseph, as a young child/teen, was not always the best on social cues – he often innocently flaunted his status of favorite which didn’t go over well with the brothers. They called him a ‘Dreamer’ with the most hateful of undertones. Some call this first section of the Joseph story ‘Joesph the Jerk.’ It is a brutal story of an annoying younger brother who suffers from the dysfunctional trauma inflicted on the family by his father – dysfunctional families is a constant theme in the book of Genesis. The miracle of the story of Joseph is that he, not only became an amazing counter to the lives of all his ancestors, he also becomes the rescuer of nations, his family, and his people.
Consider the cultural reality inherent in this story – the kinship factor of life, the safety and security, that existed in the family unit and no where else, was the primary stabilizing factor in life. Regardless of the dysfunction of a family, it is still the first place people run back to. Joesph had this factor taken from his as he was separated from his family, accentuated by the fact that this separation from family was not an outside force, outrageously, it came from within his family, his brothers.
We are all connected by either a faith connection or just the fact that we are all created and loved by God – we are all human.
Compare this monetarily trafficking of one’s own family member to our current reality of our brothers and sisters who have a different skin color than we do. Historically we have connections to their enslavement, their mistreatment, and now, they are having to use protests and screaming voices for us to fully recognize what we have done to family. Think about the ‘us vs. them’ manipulations of many politicians as well as many religious leaders to divide and justify their statements and tweets. The verses 19-20 are the words on the outside of the Loraine Hotel in Memphis where Martin Luther King was assassinated. ‘Violence destroys dreams’ – this may be the miracle in the life of Joseph, that he did not let the dreams that God have him be destroyed by the actions of his own kin. He was a dreamer.
Ironically, our current headlines document stories of children who were illegally brought into our country by their parents decades ago, growing up as Americans, knowing nothing else, and now our government is doing everything it can to send them to a home they have never known – ironically they also are called ‘Dreamers’.
As you read this familiar story, read it once from the viewpoint of the brothers, especially the older brothers who were meant to be the mentors, establishing the younger boys as central members of a family. Consider the factor of jealousy in their lives and the lives of their mothers. Consider the destructive impact that jealousy has had in your life.
Consider the life of a dreamer.
Psalm 85 begins with a reminder that God has rescued and received his people which is then followed by plea to do the same again – the remaining verses remind us of who and what God is. These are descriptive words defining the person, character, and actions of God. As you read, it may be helpful to write the words, and phrases, that tell us these aspects of God, see how they tie together (such as in vs. 10- ‘Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other’). How do these descriptions compare with the image you have of God?
In the context prior to of our Matthew passage last week, the feeding of the 5,000, we saw Jesus seriously in need of time to rest and time to recuperate. He had been very busy – it was mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausting – mercy and compassion always are. This was leading up to an even more exhausting time. Jesus’ compassion had not permitted him to rest, even though he was worn out. As he saw the hurting and oppressed crowds, his mercy and concern pushed him to address the needs of the people. Instead of resting, he just exhausted himself more. After Jesus had seen the last of the crowds leave, he put the disciples on a boat and he walked up the mountain to pray and rest.
One other context note is that this is still fairly earthly in Jesus’ ministry as well as in his relationship with his disciples. This was before he asked them ‘Who do you think I am?’; now, they were still getting to know, and trust, him and each other. They knew a bit more in the morning of this story however, just hours before they had witnessed the abundance of food after Jesus fed the people, a feast for over 5,000 people, a feast that began with just 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish.
The last time they were on a boat with Jesus there was a huge storm and Jesus calmed the storm. This probably was especially was on their mind as the winds picked up and the waves grew stronger and the boat began to rock – except for one issue, Jesus was not in the boat with them to survive this storm. On top of this, they see an unidentified figure seemingly walking on the water and moving towards them. It was a terrifying morning.
This week we continue Paul’s three chapter questions to God about his people, the Jews, who rejected Jesus. Paul is not expressing a doubting of God but searching for an understanding of how these people, who have taught him the faith, have not recognized Jesus as the Messiah. Paul is struggling with the implications of this disbelief in regard to the acts of God in leading these people throughout history, and, what does it do to the promises that God has made to them, and about them? Last week we saw the passion of Paul on this heartfelt concern as he said that he would gladly give up his own salvation if it meant that these he loves would believe. Paul is attempting to comprehend what all this means and he is doing it while navigating a hurting heart.