Wednesday, June 5, 2013

To Flee or not to Flee

Today's passage:  Genesis 38 and 39
     I am struck by these back to back passages concerning fornication. I don't think it is an accident that God put Judah and Joseph's stories one after another in the Bible.  In fact, it is probably very likely that God wanted us to contrast the very marked behavior between the two.
     First we read about Judah and this very disturbing chapter concerning his daughter-in-law, Tamar.  Through a series of unfortunate circumstances, Tamar bears her own father-in-law's child.  The details are less than pretty and I would rather not delve into all the particulars, but had Judah reigned in some of his impulses, this could have been avoided.  He was not one to avoid a pretty woman, veiled or unveiled.  He ran into sin, not away from it.  He is held responsible for his actions, though he nearly gets away with it excepting some shrewd planning on Tamar's part to be sure nobody else could be accused of being the father of her child.
Joseph manages Potiphar's house
Taken from Standard Bible Story Readers, Book 4
By Lillie A. Faris
Illustrated by O.A. Stemler and Bess Bruce Cleaveland
The Standard Publishing Company, 1927
     Then there is Joseph.  Each and every day Potiphar's wife beckons him.  Each and every day, Joseph says no.  I'm guessing that Mrs. Potiphar was probably a beautiful woman.  I'm guessing that she probably did not dress as modestly as she should.  I'm guessing that this could have been a real internal struggle for Joseph as it is for most men who are confronted with immodestly dressed women.  Yes, ladies, I am going there, because I'm afraid, in our day and age, our society has brainwashed us into believing that if a man looks at a woman wrongly that it is all his fault.  And if he acts on those impulses, it is his fault.  But can't we help men out a little?  When a Godly man turns his head and everywhere he turns he is confronted with women who will not take responsibility for how they are tempting him with their dress, what is a Godly man supposed to do?  He probably suffers in silence many times, and will never reveal just how tortured he is, (because really, how can he tell us those things) but wishing these ladies would dress differently to give him a chance to be able to keep his mind and heart pure.  Please do not misunderstand, a man is responsible for his actions, but can't we give him a fighting chance?  We tend not to understand this, because we don't understand how men think. They think differently, and it does not make them disgusting, because God created them that way.  Armed with that knowledge, we should do whatever it takes not to be a stumbling block to them.  If you really want to gauge if you are appropriately dressed, ask your father, brother or husband, and don't get angry with them if they tell you the truth.  If they are iffy, rethink your wardrobe.
     Poor Joseph is trying to do right, and does do right, but how hard Mrs. Potiphar probably made it for him.  How many nights did Joseph have to pray repeatedly for God to cleanse his heart and mind? The Bible doesn't tell us those things, but Joseph was a real man, with a real man's instincts.  He fought them, but it couldn't have been easy to be confronted with that day after day.  In the end, though Joseph ran away, he is still punished for a sin he did not commit.  It seems a little unfair that Judah, a skirt chaser, nearly gets away with his sin, but Joseph, who leaves his robe behind in a frantic attempt to avoid sin, is wrongly convicted.  Joseph spends several years in prison for this.  That would have my justice-seeking heart outraged.  Probably the thing that I hate most is being accused of something that I did not do.  Yet Joseph, keeps a Godly attitude and earns promotions in prison.  If he had faced a parole board, he would have been given an early release for good behavior, but unfortunately, Egyptian prisons did not work that way.   His character will not go unnoticed later on though.
     I am not the type of person that likes to stir up trouble.  Really, I am not.  Most people would find that I am a peacemaker.  However, truth is truth, regardless whether you agree, and I realize that addressing women's dress is a hot button topic of our time.  All I can say is if you are really offended by this post, you might want to think about why.  I didn't even intend to go that direction but God somehow put it on my heart this morning.  So I will post this knowing the backlash and run and duck for cover and hopefully, for those of you reading this, we can still be friends. Please don't be mad at me, she says, as she pushes the send button.

Monday, June 3, 2013

I Wonder as I Wander

Today's passage:  Genesis 37
     Somehow, I have never paid attention, or never noticed this small detail in the story of Joseph.  I've read the passage many times, I've taught the Sunday School lesson, I've even seen Joseph:  King of Dreams.  But there are a few verses here to which I have never paid particular attention.  That gets my attention, because though it may seem like a small detail, if God put it there, it must have some significance.
     Jacob's other sons are in the field in Shechem, tending sheep.  He sends Joseph to go to them, to see how they are doing.  Or does he have another motive?  I ask this question, because I'm wondering if Jacob is a little suspicious of their behavior.  He tells Joseph to come back to him and let him know what they are doing.  I'm intrigued by this because of what I learn a few verses later.
     Joseph goes to Shechem which is a good jaunt from their home in Hebron, about 55 miles.  The fields there must be good for grazing.  But Joseph's brothers aren't in Shechem.  In fact, Joseph is wandering around Shechem, probably checking every field for some sign of them, when some gentleman (these are the verses I'd never really given much attention to) comes to him and asks what he needs.  If it weren't for this gentleman, Joseph would never have learned that his brothers were actually in Dothan, another 20 miles north of Shechem.  Who knows how long Joseph would have wandered about searching for his brothers?  Now what is significant about this?  Well, I read a little about Dothan.  I mean, if the brothers went there without sending word to Dad, that seems a little suspicious.  What I learned was that Dothan was not agricultural, it was a commercial town.  So what are the brothers doing up in Dothan with sheep if there is little, if any, pastureland?  That I don't have an answer for, but it wouldn't surprise me if Jacob's sons were involved in some wheeling and dealing, acquiring fortunes in the northland.  I can't be certain of this, but it does seem a bit peculiar.  So when Joseph arrives on the scene, they know they are in big trouble.  Perhaps they have had business in Dothan for a while now, maybe they have set up some sweet deals with the merchants that come through, and the last thing they need is for kid brother to tattle to Dad about their business ventures, when they should have been taking care of the sheep.  This would only fuel their desire to be rid of Joseph, so they could conduct business as usual.
Joseph, search for his brothers, is told they had gone to Dothan
Taken from Standard Bible Story Readers, Book Two
Illustrated by O.A. Stemler and Bess Bruce Cleaveland
The Standard Publishing Company, 1925
     And has Jacob been suspicious of where the brothers have been?  Did they get home later than usual?  Were the flocks looking skinnier than before?  Did it seem the boys had a little extra income, or did a few sheep mysteriously go missing every time they returned from Shechem, maybe part of a deal?  I don't know, but I do know that though Jacob may be old, he knows a little about scheming, and although he may not be completely wise to their plans, something tells me he knows everything is not on the up and up.  Loyal Joseph would of course report back to Dad, but this time, his brothers will prevent him.  And by securing Joseph's silence, they can continue their Dothan excursions.  Since Dothan was along a prominent trade route, it also was convenient for them to be able to sell Joseph, even if not the original plan.  Though jealousy and hate were the primary factors that led to Joseph's enslavement, the inducement of money may have been a motivation as well, because the Bible tells us that "the love of money is the root of all evil." (I Timothy 6:10)  Twenty silver pieces may have seemed like a small price to pay to rid themselves of a brother who would blow their cover.
     It's all pure speculation, I know, but I don't know why God would have included the verses about Joseph's aimless wandering in Shechem, and a man there, who happened to overhear the brothers' plans redirecting him, if there had not been something amiss.  Every verse in the Bible has a purpose, and maybe I miss it the first, second, or third time (sometimes the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth time as well), but when I keep reading and searching, I'm bound to find something new.  Thank you, Lord, for such a marvelous Book.

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