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Posts Tagged ‘integrity’

prisonThe story of Joseph and how he was sold into slavery by his brothers is a popular Sunday School tale. This, along with his “technicolor dreamcoat,” have been repeated over and over again. Joseph was wonderful; his brother were not so wonderful, but God blessed Joseph and the paybacks were sweet. But is that all of the story?

But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison. [Genesis 40:14, NIV]

Despite Joseph’s favor with God and being the favorite of his own birth father, he was sold, enslaved, raised up, imprisoned, and raised up with the prison walls, and forgotten (again and again). Yes, Joseph received favor in his circumstances and yes, apparently Joseph had a great work ethic, but Joseph also knew he was captive to the whims and control of others.

He was not his own man. He was dependent and I believe this is the lesson he needed to learn.

Joseph may have been a man of integrity and all of that, but until he walked the challenges of being in the lowest place could he be elevated to the highest.

Jesus tells a parable with a similar message in Luke 14:7-11.
“When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”Minolta DSC

This is the message of the old Joseph story for me today. Joseph was proud of his many dreams that showed his family bowing down to him. He inadvertently, through a bit of gloating, set a major set of circumstances into motion.

Beware, I say to myself, beware of pride and judgment. God will teach in a variety of ways. In God’s time, there is no time, only the lesson that must be learned.

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integrityEveryone around me appears so sure that the Bible is a clear exposition of right and wrong, but I say it is also full “gray areas.” Tamar, betrayed by her husband’s father and brothers, tricks the father into sleeping with her. She conceives a child by him and when she is found out is called a harlot until Judah fesses up to the deed. Then she is proclaimed righteous.

Genesis 38:25-26a
As she was being brought out [to be burned to death], she sent a message to her father-in-law. “I am pregnant by the man who owns these,” she said. And she added, “See if you recognize whose seal and cord and staff these are.” Judah recognized them and said, “She is more righteous than I . . .

I understand the concept since the law of that era proclaimed that the brothers should sleep with the widow to procure children in the dead brother’s name and provide a future for the widow. Without sons to protect her, she would be cast out into the street. She would be homeless unless her own family would take her in. It was a complex solution to a societal problem — widows.

Tamar did not have many–or perhaps I should say ANY–resources to repair the damage done by Judah’s offspring. Those brothers intentionally withheld from her what she needed: the seed to create a man-child who would care for her in her old age. They, by not participating honestly in the practice, condemned her. For this, they were undoubtedly killed. They were violating basic human rights, and worse, female rights, of which there were few.

Judah withheld the third and youngest son for fear he would be killed, since he didn’t really know why, only that relations with Tamar brought death. Oh, he promised her the boy when he came of age, but it never happened.

So, Tamar pretends to be a temple prostitute.

In today’s world, this is just another soap opera or bodice ripper romance. This is the clever woman making the man own up to his responsibilities. All true. But in her world? She was taking a huge risk. All that Judah had to do, in the moment of reveal, was deny the “pledge” he gave her belonged to him. This was the same Judah, remember, who just participated in the sale of his brother Joseph.

Judah did the right thing, despite himself.

And this is the message for me then. I can always choose rightly today, even if I chose poorly yesterday and the day before that and the day before that. I can do a reversal. I can do the right thing.

In that act of bravery, God can show up. God can make the switch. God is in the now.

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