throw him into this pit here
First, Adam and Eve are cast out (or called out if you entertain my strange interpretation of this story). Next Abram is called out into a long journey. Now Joseph is thrown down into a pit, thrown out of his family and into slavery. The description of the life of faith has been rough for these past three sundays. Walter Brueggemann wrote an essay entitled ‘Always in the Shadow of Empire’ in a book entitled, ‘The Church as Counterculture,’ in which he states; 'Israel under threat is never an easy 'therapeutic' community, and faith in Yahweh is not a massage. It is the embrace and practice of a destiny that make costly demands in the name of Yahweh.’
Although many themes are explored in the cycle of Joseph stories, certainly on of these themes the struggle, even the defeat that comes to those who live caught up in the dream that God sends. While Abram gives voice to our frustration at having to wait, at feeling forgotten, Joseph goes even further to voice our emotions when our good deeds are punished. The story of Joseph isn’t so much about dealing with the tragedies that happen in life, but instead with the trials that we choose when we take that first step in fellowship and faithfulness to God.
There are no easy answers to this. Nadia Boltz-Weber has commented upon how difficult it is to discern good and evil in the Joseph stories. The dreams of Joseph, ultimately prove to be good, but they cause his family discomfort and feel ‘evil.’ Joseph is sold into slavery, which is evil, but he prospers in slavery, which is good. Until he is thrown in prison unjustly, which is evil, but it is there that he is finally noticed by Pharaoh, which is good. Joseph has the vision to help Egypt (and other peoples) survive a famine, which brings his family and people to Egypt so that they can survive, which is good. But we know that the ancestors of Jacob and Joseph will one day be oppressed and enslaved in Egypt and this is evil?
Joseph forces us to look clearly at the fact that those who have been given a God-dream will deal with disappointment and resistance and have their shares of pits as well as mountaintops. If our journey of faith has not included the facing of fears, the taking of unpopular stands, the derision or distrust of the powerful and influential, is it faith at all, or therapy? If the idea that God not only loves, but also demands sounds strange, have we really heard the story of the relationship between God and God’s creation?
What are the demands of God? How do God’s demands manifest themselves in your life? Where are tempted to resist?