GENESIS 50: God Works in Mysterious Ways
Today’s chapter concludes Act 1 in the Creator God’s Epic Play. The stage scene ends with the fourth generation of a family chosen by the Director and Producer for the main role in HIStory. On the surface, Joseph’s story looks great. Although he gets sold into slavery in Egypt, He rises to fame and glory as second in command of an ancient civilization. God works in mysterious ways …but what if those “mysterious ways” aren’t to our liking?
From an outside perspective, I could say that Joseph was blessed beyond his wildest dreams! Yet Life hadn’t recovered for him the 22 years of his father’s life, that were lost to him. The time after being reunited, seemed to end far too quickly. As servant of the Living God (fitting in with His plans, accepting His decision-making process, and His sovereign authority), I can’t help but notice Joseph’s inconsolable pain when losing his Dad for a second time. [v1] God certainly does work in mysterious ways!
More than three decades ago, I left Australia to follow what I believed was my Maker’s Will for my life. Even though I’m very grateful for the blessings I have, I’m unable to retake my own life journey. Because of this, I can’t help but wonder what life may have been like these past three decades, had my story included my Mum. Like Joseph’s hidden story of grief and loss, my biggest disappointment in life relates to Australia, and life as one “separated from my brothers”.[a]
The problem I have, however, can’t be openly shared. Few people, if any, can relate to me. Soon it will be 34 years since I first left Australia, on what I thought was my Maker’s business. I’d survived a death crash in a friend’s car, and I felt that my life had been given back to me for a reason. I owed my life to my divine Protector.[b] Wherever He was to lead me, I was happy to go. Problem is… I forgot to mention for how long!
Since the night of my car accident in 1982, my Maker has worked in mysterious ways. Although I was teased at school for being “the poor kid”, for example, my adult life has been blessed beyond my wildest dreams! As a child, I admired the braided hair and freshly pressed new uniforms of “the rich girls”. I’d never guess that I’d live to see more than 80 countries – a thing that not even Jesus got to do! If this were not enough, I then end up in the lush, sheep-covered “land of Goshen” on the borderlands between Scotland and England.
We all like happy endings, and this is especially so if the middle bit is horrible! The story of Nelson Mandela living 27 years in a prison cell but emerging as a world leader and winner of the Nobel Peace prize is a great story. It’s how we want God to work for us. But what if you’re Watchman Nee, arguably China’s greatest theologian who was sentenced to twenty years of hand labour under Chairman Mao’s regime. Clearly a “man of God”, his only prayer was to be reunited with his wife. But they extended his sentence by a further three years and she died a year before he was freed. Where’s God in that story?
Some chapters end the story and we know the outcome. Most other chapters, however, are designed to bridge events and lead us on to something else as our knowledge grows along the way. It’s in these chapters were most of us live, and this is where Faith is hardest at work or else abandoned to a graveyard of buried hope.
Today’s chapter is broken into three parts: the necessary, the unnecessary and the vital.
Just as we had to go through the awful necessity of burying our son when he left us, an elaborate observance is undertaken when Abraham’s Grandson dies. [v2-14] No matter how “evolved” we think we’ve become and no matter how many break-throughs in medical science over the past four millenniums, we still die today; it’s still catastrophically heart-breaking so that, at times, it feels like there’s no cure for the grief; and somehow (even with all our knowledge) we’ve still not managed to come up with anything to do with the body of our loved-ones that’s surpasses the incredibly clever Egyptian embalming process! [v2-3]
Apart from the elaborate burial process showing us that the Egyptian’s really did have a connection with Joseph – the proof is in the permanent name change of a town in the neighbouring country [v11] – that is to say, if the story was made up, the writer wouldn’t give so much detail – there may be something else behind this graphic end to Jacob’s life…
Back in Genesis 10:21 it said: “Shem (Noah’s son) was the ancestor of all the sons of Eber.” Eber was either that great grandson or great-great grandson of Shem and he outlived Shem, which is expected. What isn’t expected, is that Eber outlived everyone down to Abraham. He truly was the “patriarch” and Abraham took over from him. When the Creator’s script says, “the God of Abraham, and the God of Nahor” – that’s Abraham’s brother[c] – then later He’s called “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”[d], He’s not limiting Himself to one family. He’s God and Creator of the universe. Instead, we’re given a clue that these are the last alive directly from that family line.
So today’s chapter isn’t just the end of Act 1 – the first book in the world’s longest running drama. It’s the end of an era that connected directly back to the flood. No-one is living ridiculously long years anymore and intermarriage will now begin to make it difficult to follow back family lines. Incidentally, it’s worth noting here that the Book of Genesis finishes with an entire family of pure-blooded Arameans (from modern-day Iraq) who’d been identified locally as “Hebrews”.[e] Abraham and Sarah came from North-West Mesopotamia – Mesopotamia means “land between the rivers” – modern day Iraq. Abraham got a wife for his son Isaac from Haran – modern day Iraq.[f] Isaac’s son Jacob went back to Haran and had 12 sons there by women who were pure-blooded Arameans (Iraqis) – great-grandchildren of Abraham’s brother.[g] The Creator God then re-named Jacob, Israel[h], and the Book of Genesis closes with the birth of a new people group of Hebrews (named after their language) who’ll soon become a nation of Israelites.
The “necessary”, which couldn’t be avoided in today’s chapter, was Israel’s burial and they took him to what later became The Land of Israel. [v12-14] The “unnecessary”, was the moment when the sons of Israel came to their brother, Joseph, to beg for their lives. [v15-17] It was unnecessary for them to fear because Joseph was clearly a man looking for the bigger picture – someone who saw things from an eternal perspective. [v18-21] The “vital”, at the end of Act 1 in this epic storyline, was to keep hold of the promises and to carefully, and intentionally, hand them down to the next generation. [v22-26] This particularly catches my attention as I read it today, because I know of people who say, “I won’t force my kids to believe in God. I’d rather wait for them to grow up and let them decide.”
The problem, is that they’d grow up and won’t have the information to know what to decide between. It’s better to equip them fully with an intelligent amount of information so that they can make an informed decision when the time come. As it is, the world offers a smorgasbord of weird and wonderful concepts and our children are caught by what takes their fancy – rather than what’s most likely to be true.
Because of his life experience – what he saw with his own eyes and heard with his own ears – Joseph built up enough knowledge about the Creator God to then know beyond doubt that it was vital for the future of a nation to keep trusting in His lead. [v24] So much was his inner conviction (his Faith) based in intelligent reasoning gleaned from his experience, that Joseph did what no-one on the planet had so far thought of.
He used the Egyptian embalming technique to preserve his body, but he was laid in an unburied coffin. By doing this, the next generation of Israelites had a permanent reminder (in their face) that the story wasn’t over and that they were only temporary residents with a future elsewhere. [v25] This not only would keep them looking to their Maker for the next move – as He promised in His word given to them – it would affect their perspective on intermarrying with the Egyptians, integrating with the locals, putting their roots down and taking on board their culture, norms, worldview and belief system.
Again, this Book of Genesis (the book of “beginnings”) concludes on a hugely important note for me today. Children and followers of the Creator God don’t belong here.[i] I’m a temporary resident destined for my Father’s Kingdom prepared in advance for me to go. He has a plan and that plan may take a while, but He will intervene – just as He did for Lot in the days of Sodom[j] – by carrying us to the place where we belong.[k]
So, in what has become the greatest drama on earth, Act 1 in the Creator God’s Epic Play has drawn to a close and I’m left spellbound. I’m shocked that names, events, and even private conversations from a world before the flood, have survived in perfect detail for me to read today. Yet an inner voice is saying, “Ok wait… you worship the infallible 100% perfect God who flung stars into space, do you expect anything else?”
In a single Act – and there’s still 65 Acts still to go – I’ve voyaged to the depths of humanity where I’ve seen a level of purity and perfection that has never been experienced since, being destroyed before my eyes in a series of heavy blows from murder, betrayal, debase corruption, haughty kingdoms, lies, theft, rape and natural disasters. But woven into the very fabric of HIStory, like fine threads of the purest gold, is the steady presence of the Creator and His Messenger.[l] The part of the narrator, is played by the Director and, with His guiding hand at every significant moment, it’s clear in the chaos who’s in charge and in firm control.
As I contemplate how the Creator God works in mysterious way, I’m more and more convinced that, unless I understand the foundational building blocks in Act 1 of this Epic Play, I’m not going to fully understand other significant things as the Creator God’s story unfolds. This takes time in my day, but it isn’t so difficult a carve out a fraction of the 24hrs that my Maker’s so generously given to me. Because of this, I’ll finish here with a note of thanks to you for journeying with me through my Breadcrumbs these past 25 days.
So, as another day dawns over my life, I want to now encourage you fervently to keep walking forward with your Maker and His Word …your life depends on it.
CLICK to return to today’s “Daily Breadcrumbs”
[a] Genesis 49:26
[b] Psalm 121
[c] Genesis 31:53
[d] Genesis 32:9 and 50:24
[e] Genesis 14:13; 39:14; 39:17; 40:15; 41:12; and 43:32
[f] Genesis 24:1-9
[g] Genesis c29-c30
[h] Genesis 32:28
[i] Philippians 3:20-21 (See also Ephesians 2:11-22)
[j] Genesis 19:1-29
[k] Revelation 21:1-4
[l] Genesis 48:15-16