by Fred Pruitt
(The Norman Grubb website, www.normangrubb.com, has been posting excerpts from Norman’s talks on the story of Joseph recently. I’ve made a few comments on the Facebook page as we have gone along, and this one today I wanted to share and expand just a little bit. In his talk, Norman had gotten to the part where Joseph’s brothers come to him the second time, with their youngest brother Benjamin, and are invited to dine at Joseph’s house. It is the preamble to their restoration that comes with Joseph finally revealing himself to them.)
Comment for April 25, 2013:
Today I am struck that this is such a “human” story! It is about God and His purposes, certainly, in bringing forth the children of God through Israel and the One to come. But it is all told in a very human story with very human familial events and feelings. And it is all leading up to a very “human” redemption, when Joseph and his brothers and his father are all restored to each other in the end.
People are always talking about the violence and anger and hatred “in the world,” but how many of us can say we haven’t seen the very same thing in the shattering of our own families in the tragedies, sorrows, and the sometimes non-sensical “no-reasons-for-it” events of life?
“Whence come wars?” asks James — look in your own selves, he says, that’s where it starts. This Joseph and his brothers story is as close to us as our own families, because we all know events and instances where it looks like chaos has won, love has been lost, and we have been devastated.
Years ago I was in a period of estrangement from my mother; I don’t even remember the circumstances. For Christmas or Mother’s Day or something, I saw a plaque that I bought for her. Neither of us at the time thought that God was very close. But the plaque said, “God comes at last when we think He is farthest off.”
I forgot about the plaque for years, and only saw and resdiscovered it when we were going through her things after she passed. Yes, He does! I knew that by then, and she had found it out before she departed, too.
This is what happened in the Joseph story. It is inwardly a perfect representation of the ways of Christ. Outwardly it is a story of the redemption of a family. The last is always first. When the outward failed, then the inward was revealed. Then the inward took in the outward and sanctified it. At rock bottom, this is, “God is Love.” Deus caritas est.
It is intriguing to me, how the story of redemption and salvation, comes to us through the stories of very common people, who lived very common, normal lives. We remember great kings (who are usually conquerors), or great statesmen, scholars, authors, musicians, artists, etc. But we do not for the most part ascribe greatness to people whose sole occupation is caring for cattle or sheep. Nor do we remember them, except for their descendents for maybe a generation or two, before they are lost to the memory of the world in the non-recorded past, and join the trillions of other human beings who have been born, lived, and died on this earth whom no one remembers. (God does.)
We know these stories have been around in this same form (the scriptures) for at least 2,300 years or so, because we know the “Old Testament,” pretty much in its current form, was translated into Greek in Alexandria during the “Hellenistic” period, as a result of the conquests of Alexander of Macedonia. These are such simple stories of such simple people, yet somehow we find something resonating in them that even thousands of years later, intrigue and move us by the lives of these people.
The main reason for this, I believe, is that these simple childlike stories (with very adult themes oftentimes), speak to us of God in our inner selves, below the level of our conscious awareness. Jung would call them archetypical, and though I don’t go wholly by far with Jung, I think he is onto something here. There is a universal appeal for the simplicity of these stories, even though or maybe even because we are living in a time when the media and life can give us thrill after thrill after thrill, never ceasing to titillate our senses to desire greater heights and seek more impressiveness using the outer husks of life. These stories stand in stark contrast to the busy-ness, the crowded-ness, the complexity, the chaos and the heaviness of the foment of the whole world that lays on all our shoulders like a blanket.
The simplicity of the desert life and God speaking in us in the dark and secret places, is where it all starts for any one of us. We may be in a crowded city in the modern world, but it may be desert to us. “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is …” (Ps 63:1).
Jacob and his family, starting with Abraham and that generation, is the story of the redemption of the whole world, by showing us the story of redemption, death and resurrection, the birth of the new man and casting out of the old, through the lives of these individual people.
I say again, it is not about fixing dysfunctions in our families. Frankly, if we read these stories aright, we will see that the things that we identify as our “dysfunctions,” are the very pressures and stresses that bring out the pure gold of faith and the ultimate triumph of God’s Promise.
(Lest someone misinterpret me, I do not mean that if something can be “fixed,” to not to attempt to “fix it,” as if we would be “thwarting” the “will of God.” No, fix away if you can! But some things will not be fixed, and we have all found that out. Either way, we see God!!!)
The ultimate point of this story of Joseph, as it relates to “families,” is that by God’s ways, means and timing, we see God’s ultimate redemption and reconciliation, in our own “earth” families. We have seen the negatives and God has shown us the corresponding Positives! And of course all those “earth” families, are representations or manifestations, of the redemption and restoration of the Whole Family of God in the consummation.
Folks, it has always been “all in the family.” That’s all this is. Family.
“For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing MANY SONS unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee. And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me.” (Heb 2:10-13).
If you are not subscribed to the daily “Notes from Norman,” and would like to be, you can sign up on the website: www.normangrubb.com
Peace be with you.