Thursday, January 19, 2012

Blogging the Bible: The calm before the storm

As the Blog through the bible experience continues, here are some thoughts on Genesis 38-40.

Genesis 38-40 has this feel of the calm before the storm. In Genesis 38, there is the strange story of Tamar. In this tale, again,the family of Israel doesn’t come off looking good. It’s becoming a theme. Judah marries and has kids. Er, and Onan, and then Shelah. Years later, Judah goes and gets a wife fro his son Er. Remember, this is the world of arranged marriages.Er is wicked, and God takes his life. Now, in the ancient world, there was something called levirate marriage, where a brother would marry the widow, and the first child was counted as the offspring as the oldest, thereby carrying on their name. However, what does Onan do? Whatever he can to not have children for his brother. So, he pulls out. Literally. We don’t know how long this goes on, but it’s clear he’s using her for sexual gratification, while not doing his duty to raise up offspring. God deals with this. Now, some use this as a text against masturbation. It’s not. Is masturbation wrong? I have to come to say that I think it is. First, because the outlet God gave for all sexual actions to take place in the marriage bed. Second, because you can’t do it without lusting after someone that’s not your spouse. However, this passage isn’t about that. No matter how often somebody dumbly goes to this passage. Onan dies because he doesn’t’ fulfill his responsibilities. 

Judah decides,“I’m not giving her to another one of my sons, she’s poison (Jonathan Summary)”. He fears she will die, and so he sends her home to “wait” for the last son. Sometime along, his wife dies. After he’s mourned, he’s out on business, and Tamar finds out, and she dresses up as a prostitute, and manages to get his attention, and gets him to sleep with her. How she got him to notice her, and then decide to solicit her, we’re not told. The long and the short of it is she gets pregnant by him.But he doesn’t know he’s impregnated her. When he finds out his daughter in Law is pregnant, he gets all indignant, until he finds out that he’s guilty too. He ends by declaring that she is more righteous than he is. The chapter ends with Tamar bearing two sons. What’s this story have to do with the overall story?Allot. Here we have the first of a series of gentile women who will take their place in the line of promise. Tamar, Rahab, Ruth. These women aren’t Jews, but God shows, this is a story for the gentiles to. They have their place in his sovereign plan to save the whole world.

Genesis 39picks back up with Joseph, and begins to show his march to power, taken in the most circuitous route possible. 39 tells the famous story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife.

Notice two things from this chapter. First, the Lord is with Joseph. It comes out like a refrain in a song. All the success he has, comes from God. Furthermore, his success is so great, that the pagan Potiphar is blessed by it, and recognizes that the blessing comes from God. he places everything in Josephs hands. Later, when he ends up in prison, he becomes head of the jail, the number two of the chief of the prison. Whatever he did, he succeeded, because the Lord was with him.

Second. Notice that righteous actions sometimes bring us pain from the world. Joseph is amoral man. He’s quite different from Judah. When faced with temptation, he resists. When sin throws itself in front of him, he flees. Eventually, the wife of Potiphar makes her ultimate play, and he runs in the opposite direction. But is he rewarded. No. The wife of Potiphar makes up a tale, and he goes to jail.Notice something though. I think Potiphar knew that his wife was the one that was acting evilly. If a slave had tried to molest his wife, he probably would have killed the slave, instead, he only imprisoned Joseph.

Chapter 40sets the stage for 41. IN this chapter, we see Pharaoh throw two of his officials in prison, where they have prophetic dreams. God uses Joseph to interpret them, and he sets the stage for Joseph to be remembered, and brought from prison,to the right hand of the king. I imagine that in all this, there must have been great bitterness. What is God doing. He’s forgotten me. And yet, in the midst of the waiting, and the imprisonment, and the forgetting by the cupbearer, God is at work, setting the table for that moment, when he will be raised to the right hand of the king.

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