Category: Jonathan Higdon

Exodus 1:8-2:10

This text is used as the Lectionary Text for Year A on August 27, 2017.

The subject of the sovereignty of God can be a touchy one within the church. It raises seemingly limitless questions, with seemingly limitless answers depending on one’s subscription to any number of theologies. The nature and scope of God’s sovereignty are often disagreed upon—even to the point of contention—among Christian denominations. But the fact that God is sovereign, whatever that might look like, is a critical tenet for all who profess, “Jesus is Lord.”

The passage begins by highlighting humanity’s ephemeral nature. Not even a great man like Joseph, who had risen to a place of prominence in Egypt, can be remembered forever. What has withstood the test of time, however, are the people through whom God’s covenant with Abraham would be fulfilled. The Israelites have honored God’s creation mandate to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28), and their growing number was a sign of God’s presence and blessing. The size of the Israelite population has snuck up on Pharaoh, and he decides to put an end to their growth—he attempts, in effect, to put an end to God’s presence and blessing among God’s people. Pharaoh does not deport the Israelites from his land; he recognizes that they have value to him, and he attempts to exploit it by ruthlessly imposing slave labor upon them. God’s sovereignty shines through, however, as the Israelites respond to Pharaoh’s oppression by further increasing in number. The Egyptians began to loathe the Israelites—after all, as the plagues in Exodus 8 would reveal, Egyptians hate swarms.

Continue reading

Genesis 45:1-15

This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on August 20, 2017.

By the events of Genesis 45, Joseph had lived in Egypt for most of his life. During his time there, he has experienced the highest of highs (see: reward for interpreting dreams) and the lowest of lows (see: wife, Potiphar’s). Once Joseph had risen to power in Egypt, the dream he interpreted for Pharaoh about years of abundance followed by years of famine had become a reality. Throughout Egypt’s seven fruitful years, Joseph oversaw the storage of food. And once famine struck the land, families from all around came to Egypt for help, including Joseph’s brothers—the same brothers who had sent him to Egypt in the first place.

After following Joseph throughout his life, from his earliest days as his father’s favorite son to the leadership position he now holds in Egypt, the climax of Joseph’s story arrives at this moment. How does Joseph react to his brothers’ plea for help? The tables have turned completely since they were last together. Where Joseph was once weak, he is now in a place of power. His life is no longer at the mercy of his family, but quite the opposite: they stand now at his mercy and have come to him so that they might live. The content of Joseph’s first dreams—the dreams in which his brothers bowed down before him—had finally come to pass.

Continue reading

Genesis 37:1-4, 12–28

This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on August 13, 2017.

It can be difficult to read the story of Joseph with the advantage of a contemporary perspective. Tales of his integrity, perseverance, and wisdom are often retold in the church but are typically approached nonlinearly. We already know what happens to Joseph later in his life, and so we read with a certain assurance when he is sold into slavery, or he is wrongly accused and imprisoned, or after the famine he foretold strikes. Joseph, however, did not have the luxury of such a nonlinear survey of his life, and neither did his brothers when they plotted to kill him and eventually sold him into slavery.

The very first impression of Joseph that Genesis 37 offers is that of a tattle-tale, and this trait was due in no small part to the favor Joseph was given by his father, Jacob. He was one of the youngest of his father’s many children, but he is the firstborn of Jacob’s beloved wife, Rachel. Jacob—who was not his father’s firstborn, either—was made “first” as the result of the favoritism shown by his mother, Rebekah. Jacob was no stranger to questionable behavior, either. His mother aided in the deception of his brother Esau and his father, Isaac. It makes sense that Joseph—who, like his father, became “first” through favoritism—would also behave questionably and that his father would even encourage it (albeit not with a birthright, but a special robe).

Continue reading

Genesis 32:22-31

This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on August 6, 2017.

I imagine that when Jacob left home after receiving the blessing that belonged to his brother Esau, he left with very little. His mother implored him to flee “at once” when Esau sought to kill him (Genesis 27:43). And at Bethel, he rested his head on a rock—not a pillow—prior to his infamous ladder dream (Genesis 28). Throughout the years following his flight, however, Jacob accrued plenty: his animals, his slaves, his family. But he carried all of that with relative ease compared to the burden of seeking reconciliation with the brother who had wanted him dead.

As this passage opens, Jacob is helping his traveling party make their way across the Jabbok. He is releasing every piece of baggage he has, save this most important one. Before Jacob can cross, however, he has to release this final burden. His internal struggle manifests itself externally as this mysterious man who wrestles with Jacob until daybreak.

Continue reading