Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Mummy Part I: Genesis 50

First a quick note: thanks for sticking with me for 50 posts in Genesis. This blog through the whole Bible, one chapter at a time thing is going to take a while. I’d reward your patience with some cookies, but I haven’t perfected my email-a-snack technology yet. Thank you again for reading.

Jacob’s last words were found in Genesis 49, and we looked at that yesterday. Now we move rapidly from Jacob’s death to Joseph’s death. At the beginning of Genesis 50 (link) Jacob dies and Joseph has the Egyptian embalmers prepare his body. In short, Joseph’s Daddy becomes his Mummy…

A few notes on this occurrence: the embalmers utilized the entire 40 day process. That indicates a level of respect and a plan to preserve the body. The Egyptians as a people mourned Jacob for 70 days. That’s a lot of time for a foreigner, and it conveys the high esteem for both Joseph and the age and wisdom of Jacob.

Then, Joseph, his brothers, and a crew of the high people of Egypt travel back to the cave of Machpelah and bury Jacob there with his ancestors. This is done with great sorrow and much weeping, such that the Canaanites are astounded by it.

On the way home, Joseph’s brothers are concerned that Joseph’s revenge has simply been delayed until their father’s passing. After all, there’s a great human tendency to see in other what we have in ourselves, and I think Joseph’s brothers see the possibility for patient vengeance. That’s not unlike what they did to him, is it?

Joseph’s attitude is a good one here, though, and he reminds his brothers that God has used their sin for the good of them all. There’s a hint, though, of something else: “Am I in God’s place?” could also rightly be taken as “God will deal with what you have done.” Joseph expresses his trust that the Almighty will handle the issue of justice for him.

Then, in the course of time, Joseph dies. He charges the people of Israel to take his bones from Egypt when they leave and bury him in the land of promise. Apparently, even within Joseph’s lifetime, the situation had changed enough that there was no taking him back to bury him right then.

So, he’s embalmed (and becomes his own mummy) and stored in a coffin for later transportation.

That’s the summary of the chapter. What can we take from it? Here are a few things:

1. Honor your commitments. That’s two of the three vignettes in this chapter when you boil them down. Honoring Jacob’s request and Joseph honoring his prior-expressed forgiveness of his brothers.

2. That’s right: forgiveness is a commitment, and a lasting one at that. To forgive means to actually let go of the right to avenge the wrong done to you.

There are a few thoughts with that: 1.) Forgiveness does not automatically dismiss consequences of justice. You may forgive the robber, but society has a need for certain judicial actions anyway. 2.) Releasing the right of vengeance does not equal perfectly restored relationship. Sin tends to show itself in habits and it is not unforgiving to be mindful of the pattern. 3.) Forgiveness is a long-term thing—if you claim to forgive now, you are releasing the ability to come back years from now on the same item.

The forgiveness aspect of life is hard. In fact, proper forgiveness can only come from a heart full of God, because only God is really able to forgive. Through Christ’s vicarious death on the cross, the judicial need is satisfied, the habit of sin can be wiped clean, and He now lives forever, securing eternal forgiveness.

3. Finally—don’t assume the story ends with you. Joseph knew that he wasn’t the end of the line and that Egypt wasn’t the final place. Live and die knowing that the story of redemption goes on and goes forward and trust God, through his people, to work out whatever details you leave behind.

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