Brothers Reunited

How does the story of Joseph end? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

So Jacob has now died in the story and that leaves Joseph and his brothers. However, now Joseph is one of the most powerful men in the world. His brothers? Not so much. We all know sibling rivalry is a thing, but throwing your brother into a pit, selling him into slavery, and then telling your father he died, is somehow a step above shaking up their soda before you bring it to them at work. (Which I never ever did to my sister, of course!)

But as I said, Joseph has the power now and while his father was alive, he might have not wanted to do anything. Now, dear old Dad is gone. If anyone has the power in the family, it’s Joseph, and he does have the power indeed. He can do whatever he wants with these brothers. The only person who could really stop him is Pharaoh and somehow I suspect Pharaoh is interested in other matters besides sibling rivalry.

The brothers come up with an idea, and who can blame them? They claim that Jacob said that Joseph needs to show mercy and forgive his brothers. After all, it’s really easy to speak for someone after they’re dead. It’s not like Jacob is going to be able to say anything to him.

However, the brothers need not have worried. Joseph, if anything, is disappointed that this has happened. Do his brothers still not trust him yet? Do they not realize that regardless of what happened, that they are family?

Joseph assures them he has nothing against them. Yes. What they did was meant for evil. He doesn’t deny that. The reality is that God used it for good, the saving of many lives. This is something good for us all to keep in mind. Whatever someone intends for evil will be used by God for good one way or another.

We in the West look at this and think that this is a nice and heartwarming story. We don’t realize how important it is. For the Eastern audience, this could be the most important part of the story. Yes. Joseph has saved the world, but what about his family? No one ever forgets where they buried that hatchet. Will the brothers be reunited? If they weren’t, what would that mean for the future of the twelve tribes of Israel?

This isn’t just an epilogue. This is the story reaching its true resolution. Leave this out and there’s a mystery. Even if you see the twelve tribes together in Exodus, the audience would be wondering, “But what about Joseph and his brothers. How did that end?”

What we see here is a beautiful story of forgiveness. There’s a reason that Joseph is usually seen as a Christ figure of sorts in the Old Testament. Joseph can do whatever he wants with his brothers and he chooses to do one of the most powerful acts of all, to forgive them.

Genesis started with one brother killing another. It ends with one brother forgiving all of his when he could have been justified in killing them. That means the story ends in hope. Israel may not be in the promised land now, but they are united and at least they’re not killing each other now.

Tomorrow, I plan on a Christmas post, but then after that, hopefully, we will return to marriage and divorce.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Did Joseph Forget?

Did Joseph forget about his suffering? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Joseph does manage to escape prison when he’s thrown in by impressing the Pharaoh by interpreting his dream. The Pharaoh places Joseph second in command in Egypt and gives him a wife. Joseph has two sons through her and the oldest is named Manasseh while the youngest is named Ephraim.

Ephraim refers to being fruitful. We can understand that. Joseph is having a very fruitful time in Egypt. However, the name Manasseh is given because Joseph says that he has forgotten the suffering that he went through. He had forgotten his trouble and his father’s household.

Had he? When Joseph’s brothers show up not too far down the road, Joseph does remember them. He knows about them. If he’s able to talk about his father’s household, surely he hadn’t forgotten about his father’s household. Besides that, Joseph should have good memories of his Dad who favored him.

It’s my contention that sometimes when the Bible uses the word forget or remember, it doesn’t mean what we often think it means. In the flood, it says God remembered Noah. It’s not that God is looking down at the flood and sees that ark floating and thinks “Noah! I forgot all about Him!” Instead, it means that God returned his focus to Noah.

If that’s what it means to remember, then that would mean that Joseph had a new focus in life. He was not thinking about what happened growing up and how his brothers mistreated him and all the time he spent in prison. Instead, he was focusing on the future.

Joseph had come to see that God was with him in everything regardless of how his life was going. One day he’s in prison and has been forgotten by everyone. The next day, he’s the second in command in Egypt. The reader knows that God has been with Joseph granting him favor in the eyes of all who see him the whole time, but Joseph does not have that outside perspective. He is living the story that we are the spectators of.

Joseph having children is a sign to him that things are working out. God has allowed him the honor of having a family and having descendants. These are things he would have missed out on also if he had not been faithful in the house of Potiphar.

Speaking personally on this, divorce has been the worst event I have ever gone through. Something that has kept me going is a saying that I have heard before and I don’t remember where, but it’s that the best revenge is a life well-lived. I have decided I don’t want to be a victim of my past. I want to rise above. When I go to work, I try to see it as just a stepping stone. It is one spot on my journey and somehow it will lead to another and God has me here for a reason just like he had Joseph in prison for a reason that he didn’t understand.

After all, picture if Joseph had never been sold into slavery and then never been picked by Potiphar and then never thrown into prison. He would never have been made known to Pharaoh. He would never have led Egypt and the world would have suffered a famine. Joseph could have died anyway then. Every step of his suffering was used by God.

Joseph no longer had his focus on the past. He was looking to the future. Paul said the same in Philippians 3. He was forgetting what was behind and looking to what was ahead.¬† (Ironically, what was behind him was pretty good actually. It just didn’t compete with Christ.) Maybe we should all do the same.

It’s something that keeps me going in this.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Joseph’s Temptation

How did Joseph handle temptation? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

There’s a story done about a study on a college campus. In this study, an attractive young woman would go up to various men on campus and ask them if they would like to have sex with her that evening. Many guys in the study actually said, “Why wait until this evening?” The women when approached by a handsome young man with the same question weren’t nearly as eager.

Most of us understand this. Guys think about sex a lot and it is the greatest area of temptation most of us feel. Joseph in Egypt is also a guy and he has older brothers who have families of their own, even if they are distant. He lives in a household where his Dad is presumably very active to bring about all those kids.

Joseph is away from those influences. He has been sold into slavery and if anyone had any understandable reason to go against God, Joseph did. It wouldn’t be right, but we can understand how Joseph could look at his evil of being a slave and think that God had abandoned him and why not return the favor? No one is there to see him after all. Why not become like the Egyptians and worship their gods instead of YHWH?

Yet Joseph does not do this.

Joseph is placed in the home of Potiphar and his wife takes a liking to Joseph. She tries to seduce him time and time again. The Bible doesn’t tell us what methods she used, but many of us guys know that women can be very alluring when they try to seduce. It’s not like Joseph could also go to another household and be a servant there. That freedom didn’t exist.

So he had to overcome this. Many of us guys can have this struggle. How many of us men, on a lesser level, have bought something at a store that we really didn’t need or even want just because the girl who sold it was awfully cute and it looked like she was flirting? Been there. Done that.

Joseph does everything he can to remain faithful. One day when Potiphar is away, his wife takes Joseph by his coat and asks him to sleep with her. This time she has gone too far and Joseph flees leaving his coat behind. Now the woman has a problem. She has the coat of another man right there. Thus, she turns the tables and screams and when Potiphar arrives eventually later on in the day, she tells him that the Hebrew slave tried to seduce her and fled leaving his coat behind. This leads to Joseph being thrown in prison as Potiphar is not going to disbelieve his own wife.

Joseph goes to prison then and while he is faithful to God even there, let’s look at what happened with him. Joseph remained faithful and his main reason was he didn’t want to dishonor not just his master, but God. Joseph has not abandoned God even though one could understand why he could think God had abandoned him.

Joseph could have also easily got some action in and as far as we know, he was a virgin at this time. Surely he would be curious and wonder what he’s missing. While that may be so, he still remains faithful.

Many of us are not as careful with temptation and allow ourselves to be tempted and then get surprised when we fall. As a single man again, I am looking for a new wife, but I am also setting up one rule being that if I have my own place, I will not have a girl I date come alone to be at my place with me and I will not be alone with her at hers.

When I work, if some ladies get off the same time as me, I walk them to their cars. Last night, one offered to drive me to mine. It’s a short ride across the parking lot, but I said no. It would not appear right for me to do that. I would not take another girl home either. There are women who can do that.

Why do this? Because I know how real the temptation is. It’s something I struggle with every day. Today, it can be harder than it was for Joseph. You want to see something sexual? Heck. Just open up your browser and you can in a few clicks. You can see something on your phone if you want to.

Sexual faithfulness is worth it. I hope to remarry someday and when I do, have a woman know that I preserved my eyes from seeing other women like that and saved them for when I could see her. It is my goal to make it to a future wedding night knowing that I remained faithful to God and to her and waited for that time. God is not opposed to His children enjoying the blessing of sexuality. He wants us to enjoy it in the way that is best for us, in a committed monogamous relationship of a man and a woman.

Joseph remained strong. In the end, he was used mightily of God. Today, we need to remain strong in a highly sexualized culture as well. Temptation is real, but Christ is there to help us overcome it always.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

The Missing Father

Where was he? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Joseph has grown up now and started having dreams. No. I’m not talking about what you get after eating too much pizza at night or about what happens when you are highly ambitious. (Although it certainly looks like Joseph was that.) These are dreams that get the rest of his family, including Jacob, angry. In these dreams, he would see representations of his family bowing down to him.

They weren’t exactly happy to hear all of this. Even Jacob was indignant. Unfortunately, Jacob did show special favor to Joseph though, such as giving him a fancy coat which no one else got. They could have seen it as a way of trying to make the dreams come about to be true.

One day, Jacob sends Joseph to his brothers and after some journeying, he finds where they are. When they see him coming, they decide to kill him, although Reuben does have second thoughts. (Maybe he remembers what he did with his Dad’s concubine and is trying to get in his father’s grace again.)

However, these brothers decide just killing Joseph wouldn’t get them that much. They can get rid of him and still profit some themselves. They just need to sell him into slavery. Fortunately, a caravan is coming through that will purchase him.

Reuben is apparently away while this happens and when he returns, he finds the pit that they had thrown Joseph into is empty and he thinks that the boy has been killed and he tears his clothes. The text doesn’t tell us, but I suspect this still has to do with Reuben’s transgression. Reuben wants to make up somehow for what he did.

However, the brothers still have a problem here. Joseph is gone, but their Dad is going to wonder what happened to him. Somehow, they have a hunch that the message of “We sold him into slavery” isn’t going to go over well. So, they take his special coat and dip it in the blood of an animal and show it to Jacob.

In the book¬†Misreading Scripture with Individualist Eyes, the authors write about this story being told to a Middle Eastern group and when they get to the trouble between the brothers someone asks a question we don’t normally think of. “Where is Jacob?” To be sure, Jacob shows up in the text, but the father is supposed to lead his family and be aware of what’s going on. This father is so unaware of what’s going on that he doesn’t see the jealousy Joseph’s brothers have and don’t realize their desire to see him dead?

Sadly, Jacob’s special care for Joseph has blinded him to the reality of his other sons. You would think Jacob would have learned about the dangers of favoritism after the trouble that he had with Esau, which fortunately did end on a positive note. Unfortunately, he did not, and while God will use this for good, it doesn’t condone that Jacob should have been a more attentive father in the life of his children.

If you’re a father today, don’t make the same mistake. The consequences can be tragic.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Book Plunge: The Virgin Birth of Christ

What do I think of Richard Shenk’s book on the virgin birth (Which I do affirm) published by Paternoster books? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Readers of my work and friends of mine know that one of my favorite subjects to refer to is the virgin birth and about my constant statement about affirming the virgin birth, which I do affirm. I figured it was about time I did a podcast on the topic and that I called in someone who would do that. A quick search on Amazon led me to this book by Richard Shenk.

The virgin birth, as Shenk points out, is often a shibboleth of sorts. It’s a test. It’s where the battle lines are drawn. For Christians, the virgin birth is a sort of test of orthodoxy. Once that one falls, so many other pillars will just start falling. For atheists and non-Christian skeptics, it’s a test of incredulity. The virgin birth is obviously something stupid to believe.

That last part is, of course, ridiculous. I often like to ask skeptics about this who claim we know so much better in the age of science, at what point in history did men and women realize there was a connection between sex and babies? Believe it or not, we knew it pretty early on in our history. Joseph was not a biologist and we know a whole lot more about pregnancy than they did back then, but he knew enough to know what it took to make a baby and he knew he hadn’t done that.

Shenk says that this is one of the first great gifts of the virgin birth. It blows right through naturalism if true. It shows that God has acted in the world in a unique miracle.

Yet there’s more. We want to know why a virgin birth took place. For many of the church fathers, there were two reasons. One is to avoid Jesus being born of concupiscence. Many of you might not be familiar with that word. Fortunately, he tells us what it is. On p. 33, he refers to an evil concupiscence as the fulfilling of evil desires. For some in the early church, sex was purely for procreation. To use sex for other reasons was to give heed to evil desires.

We can’t have Jesus come that way, but such a view does not find a home in the Scriptures. How can you have such a view when Paul says in 1 Cor. 7 that married couples ought not to abstain from sex for a time except for prayer and by mutual consent and even then for a short time only. Nothing at all says, “Come together and have sex only when you want children.” Sex is presented as a great good throughout the Bible to be enjoyed by husband and wife.

Well, maybe it’s to avoid original sin. Still, there’s nothing in the Scriptures that really demonstrates that sin passes down through a paternal line. It’s an interesting theory, but Shenk doesn’t think it holds up.

Yet there’s also another problem with Jesus’s birth. What about the sin of Jeconiah? He was said that he would be childless and his descendants would not rule? I personally think this applied to only his immediate descendants and that we see a reversal in Haggai 2 when Zerubbabel is given the signet ring to show ruling again, but Shenk works with this to argue a virgin birth helps bypass that. It’s a long theory and best explained by reading the book. There’s also a theory that God chose this route to hide from the devil who the seed would be in Genesis 3:15. I’m not convinced, but it is interesting.

Shenk says one real purpose of the virgin birth is to show that Jesus is fully God and fully man. If Mary had not known a man and gave birth, then this is showing that this is no ordinary child. This child can truly be said to be conceived of the Holy Spirit.

Shenk also compares old creation and new creation at this point. In Genesis 1, the Holy Spirit hovered over the waters preparing for God to act in the world. In the birth of Jesus, the Holy Spirit overshadows Mary preparing for the new birth of the Messiah in her.

Many church fathers and Catholics see the relation between Eve and Mary as well. This is a reversal in that Mary succeeds where Eve fails. The information on 2 Timothy 2:11-15 is quite fascinating at this point and worth considering for those who read it. Basically, Shenk thinks that Paul is seeing Mary as redeeming the mistake of Eve and thus restoring honor to the women.

There’s also the honor of adoption. Joseph is an adopted father of Jesus in the text and this is the method used by God to get Jesus into the royal lineage. Adoption is something that we should be concerned about in an age of abortion.

And finally, there is also our virgin birth. Oh not that we will be physically conceived without the help of a man and a woman together, but that we will be conceived spiritually not that way, but by a new birth in Christ. Christ gives us a new birth without the aid of our parents at all, though of course parents can help, but they are not essential to a child becoming a Christian. The virgin birth reminds us that a birth from above is given to all of us in Christ.

This book will give you a newfound appreciation of the virgin birth. It is also a relatively short book. There is a slight section on perpetual virginity, but aside from that even most Catholics and Orthodox I think could appreciate it.

And of course, I affirm the virgin birth.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Joseph The Skeptic

What kind of man was Joseph? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Last time we wrote about the virgin birth of Mary. Tonight, we’re going to be looking at Joseph. We said that the virgin birth would have only brought shame to Christianity. Now for the days of Mary and Joseph, a betrothal like they had was legally binding and it would require a divorce to get out of it. So Joseph hears from his wife-to-be that she is pregnant and that it is by the Holy Spirit. As we know from the text, his response was to say “Praise the Lord!” and take her in immediately excited that he gets to be the earthly father of the Messiah and the Son of God!

That doesn’t sound right does it?

No. Joseph’s response was that he was going to divorce Mary in private. He did not want to publicly humiliate her, which does show his nature very well. Joseph is an honorable man and he does not want to lower the honor of Mary any more than necessary. We can often think that God specifically chose Mary to be the mother of Jesus, but let us always keep in mind that Joseph would have been just as much chosen to be the earthly father.

Now why did Joseph have this desire to divorce her privately? It is because despite what people think, Joseph was a rational man and he knew even in this age where everyone was obviously ignorant of science, exactly what it took to make a baby and he knew that he had not done that with Mary. If he had not done that with Mary, for some strange reason, he did not punt immediately to a miracle. Instead, he just figured there had been some other man. We do not know if he believed it was a rape of some kind or if he thought that Mary had cheated on him. Either way, he wanted to be honorable to her.

What did it take to convince him otherwise? It took something else that would be just as miraculous. It wasn’t until an angel showed up and spoke to him that he decided to take Mary to be his wife and as the text says, he had no relations with her until the time came that Mary gave birth. (Personally, I find it difficult to think that Mary was a perpetual virgin. I just simply suspect Joseph was a guy just like most any other guy, that and the fact that Jesus had brothers and sisters.)

Still, when he heard from God, Joseph too responded appropriately, and let’s remember that he too made a sacrifice. He was sentencing himself to the life of a pariah. If it was not assumed that Mary had someone been unfaithful to Joseph, it would just as much be assumed that Mary and Joseph just didn’t have the self-control to wait and came up with this bizarre story of a virgin birth instead of admitting the simple fact. This would have been something that would have been talked about at social gatherings. People would point at Mary and Joseph and have people know that that was the couple that had that illegitimate child.

And this would be the kind of life that Jesus would grow up with as well.

When we read the Christmas story, we can often read about the birth and move on past that. We miss so much that would have gone on around the birth of Jesus. While we do not have as much as we’d like, let’s consider the kind of reputation Jesus would have had even before he started his ministry. That shame was part of the sacrificial life of Christ as well and we should remember it when we face our own shame, for as the Hebrews writer tells us, he despised the shame of the cross for the joy that came afterwards. When we consider our shame, let’s remember we too have joy awaiting us and be faithful.

In Christ,
Nick Peters