Thursday, October 31, 2013

Recognition (part 1 of 2)

Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him. – Genesis 42:8  (NET)

Delving into the life of Joseph will almost invariably produce a comparative analogy to the life of Jesus, and with what is transpiring in association with this particular verse, the statement proves to be true.  The reader of Scripture can never be allowed to forget that the way in which Israel thought about itself, the way the disciples would have heard and understood the words and ministry of Jesus, and even the way that Jesus thought of and presented Himself to Israel, would all have been couched in the regularly told history of Israel, as grounded in the Abrahamic covenant and in the history of the Egyptian exodus. 

To that end, not only was every Passover an explicit reminder of their exodus experience and that their God was the God of exodus, but the long subjugation to various empires---the latest of which was Rome---was productive of a general (though not exclusive) mindset of a people in an exile from the full manifestation of their God’s promises to them.  Thus, among many, there was a consistent longing for a new exodus led by a new deliverer. 

Owing to that the groaning desire of freedom from Rome’s yoke (not unlike the groaning of Israel in Egypt, as recorded in Exodus), one can be assured that thoughts of the Creator God’s miraculous deliverance of His people from the power of Egypt would never have been too far from their minds.  Quite naturally, the story of Joseph, which was so closely connected to the story of Israel’s arrival in Egypt (which was itself part of the God of Israel’s confirmation of His promise to Abraham), and which was itself a poignant story of vindication and exaltation after an ordeal of wrongful suffering, would have been a popular story in Israel. 

Because it offers a tight analogy to that which was experienced by Jesus (suffering, vindication, exaltation), stories of Joseph, especially following the Resurrection of Jesus, would have been fertile ground for gaining an even greater understanding of Jesus and His mission, of the covenant God that raised Him from the dead, and of the redeeming, rescuing movement of that same God throughout all of history---with comprehension of that work, enacted primarily through His covenant people, given shape by the Abrahamic covenant and its associated pointers and promises that are rehearsed and recorded throughout the written history (including the poets and prophets) of Israel.  

Now, some misguided souls might be tempted to look at these analogies from a resurrection-denying perspective and draw the conclusion that followers of Jesus, subsequent to His unexpected and defeating death and seeking to keep alive the cult that had grown around Him, simply searched the Scriptures so as to pull together bits and pieces by which it was possible to build a better foundation for their ongoing worship and subsequent proclamation of Him as the embodiment of Israel’s God. 

However, reading the Hebrew Scriptures in the light of God’s redemptive plan that was commenced through Abraham, carried on through Israel, climaxed in Jesus, and continually out-worked through the Church of Christ, becomes an exercise in learning about the Creator God and His purposes, so that one might gain a greater measure of trust through what is somehow understood to be the out-spiring work of the Holy Spirit. 

Thus, believers come to be able to identify the places that connect them to the culminating event in the history of the entire cosmos, which was the Christ-event.  This operation is undertaken, presumably, so that those that confess Jesus as Lord and who seek to live according to that proclamation, might be able to more effectively operate by the mysterious power of the Resurrection, that they might be the means by which the Creator God applies that transformative power, by the Spirit, through that Gospel proclamation of Jesus as Lord. 

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