The Scriptures for next Sabbath/Sunday are: Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28; Psalm 85:8-13; Romans 10:5-15; Matthew 14:22-33.
Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28 What is before us here is the journey of the Promise from God to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph. We now come to discern how the journey of the Promise takes us into the story of Joseph and his brothers. This is one of the most familiar parts of the entire Sacred Bible. You will notice certain duplications and complications to suggest that two or more versions of the story have been brought together to form the narrative before us. For example, it is first Reuben, then Judah who steps forward to prevent the murder of Joseph. Also in one rendition, it is the Ishmaelites who are identified as the group that carried Joseph to Egypt; but in another rendition the responsibility for that deed is laid upon the Midianites. Even with these complications, what we have is a beautiful, simple, interesting story of hope and life. It never grows old, and even children love to hear it.
One cause of the trouble between Joseph and his brothers is the favoritism Joseph received from his father, Jacob, because he was the son of Rachel, Jacob’s adored and favorite wife. Favoritism always lays the foundation for hatred and strife. There should be no favoritism in the house of God. The way people are treated should not be based upon arbitrary emotional swings, but upon responsible decisions to be equitable, fair, just and loving toward all of God’s children. If you have more than one child, or more than one sibling, or more than one aunt, or more than one uncle, or more than one cousin, or more than one friend, make them all feel secure in your love and in the fairness and justice of your treatment of them.
Jacob used his excessive love of Joseph to make Joseph a monster in his brothers’ eyes. Why should Joseph be the only one of many sons to wear an elaborate, ornamented tunic with gorgeous colors, full length and long sleeves? Such attire was not appropriate for the hard field work of tending Jacob’s cattle, sheep and donkeys. Joseph’s brothers hated Joseph because he was unjustly and unfairly favored. What puzzles and delights me is that Black people in the United States do not hate whites because of their unfairly and unjustly favored places in the social, economic and political structures of America and the world. Why are we not bitter, jealous, hateful and resentful toward those, whose ancestors seized the wealth of Africa by force, and led us into perpetual, permanent slavery, dehumanization, dislocation and disadvantage? Why were we made to remain enslaved for 244 years? Will we ever catch up? There has been enough cruelty done to us to make us mad with the world like the brothers of Joseph. There are those who would argue that we have been brain-washed by the system and poisoned by the Willie Lynch syndrome to love everything white, and hate everything Black; but that is neither the reality nor the reason for the positive, gleeful, affirmative, optimistic attitude of most African Americans.
God knows that no matter how justified hate may be, it is never beneficial to those who harbor it. Hate does more to destroy those who have it than to hurt those toward whom hate is directed. It is through the love of Jesus that we have been able to sustain our fight for freedom without recourse to violence and mayhem and the chaos of unmitigated anger. It is through the love of Jesus that we have made music rather than make war, sung songs rather than drop bombs and preached sermons on love rather than spawned speeches of hate. It is through the love of Jesus that we have learned to deal creatively with our resentments, turning them into newer expressions of art and higher achievements of academic excellence than any race can boast. We have learned that our richness and strength in Christ are deeper and stronger than our suffering and pain in society, so that we have the capacity to smile through the storm, sing through the night, climb higher above the misery and absurdity we face as we dare in the name of Jesus to “love even our enemies, do good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us and pray for those who abuse us.” (Luke 6:27). What greater transcendence of spirit and attitude could better confuse the enemy? What stronger force than love could more effectively transform the children of God into instruments of peace, channels of love and harbingers of hope? It was the love of God that followed Joseph into captivity, maltreatment and imprisonment. It was the living, working, delivering, blessing, enlarging love of God that elevated Joseph from a prisoner to a prince and transformed him from a spoiled brat into a mature man who had the wisdom and the power to save many nations from starvation and death. It is the mighty, empowering, strengthening love of God that has girded, guided and blessed the suffering races and nations of the world. It was Martin Luther King Jr., and not Adolph Hitler, who built a brave new world of justice, love, hope, sanity, equality and love. It is the love of God, and not anger and violence that overcomes the favoritism of human systems and the hatred of the brothers and sisters. Because I spent so much space on the Joseph phenomenon, I will trust you to finish the study of all of the assigned lessons. Do it and be blessed!
C. G. A.