The Pharaoh Who Didn’t Know Joseph


Joseph saved his family. Well, God did, through Joseph. He said it clearly to his brothers, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.” But it just dawned on me, the “many people” were also the Egyptians.

How many of them would have died during a seven-year drought if God hadn’t warned Pharaoh, through Joseph, so that they saved grain during the years of plenty?

Joseph was a hero. His father was an honored elder, so much so that many Egyptian dignitaries accompanied Joseph and his brothers to Canaan to bury Jacob in the family burial plot when he died.

But then the Pharaoh who didn’t know Joseph came to power.

First off, he was afraid of the people of Israel. After all, they were so many! And of course he started playing the “what if” game. What if, in a battle against our enemies, they join the opposition?

That kind of thinking would have not taken hold if the people of Israel and the Egyptians were still friends. If the Egyptians were still treating them with respect. But apparently that wasn’t the case.

I’ve wondered, how did a people go from being protected to being enslaved. The roots were there in Joseph’s day. Scripture records that the Egyptians found it loathsome to eat with the Hebrews, which meant Joseph, even as the second in command of the nation, ate by himself.

Also back in that day, Joseph told his brothers that the Egyptians despised shepherds—which, of course, was exactly how the Hebrews made their livelihood.

So already the roots of division were in the society—elements of prejudice and disrespect.

Add in that Pharaoh “suggested” that some of Joseph’s newly arrived family could also care for his flocks and herds. Let the Hebrews do the dirty job, the Egyptians hated.

And would Joseph’s family have balked at this? Hardly! They saw Pharaoh and Egypt as their salvation. They would have died if they stayed home. Instead they were provided with abundant pasture land and the food they needed to survive the drought. Was caring for Pharaoh’s livestock too much to ask? Not at all.

Except, the foundation for slavery was undoubtedly laid right there. If the Hebrews did what Pharaoh asked when it came to the animals, why not ask them to “help” with the construction of a couple storage cities?

By the time the Pharaoh came to power who didn’t know Joseph, the Hebrews were not only numerous, they were invaluable. That’s the second horn of this ugly animal the Egyptians had created. Not only did they fear the Hebrews, they needed them and they didn’t want to lose them. So as part of the “what if” game, the Pharaoh postulated, What if they leave?

He said to his people, “Behold, the people of the sons of Israel are more and mightier than we. Come, let us deal wisely with them, or else they will multiply and in the event of war, they will also join themselves to those who hate us, and fight against us and depart from the land.” (Exodus 1:9-10, emphasis added)

His way of “dealing wisely?” First he brought in taskmasters to oversee the Hebrews’ work. Next to assigned the Hebrew midwives to kill the baby boys when they were born. That plan didn’t work, so he passed the law that the boys should be exposed as infants—thrown in the river, killed, by their parents.

I think it’s safe to say, this man who did not know Joseph also did not know God.

Think for a second with me: why would he order only the boys to be killed? What would become of those baby girls when they grew up? No Hebrew men to marry. Would the Egyptians take them as wives? Or more likely take those slaves for their harems?

We have no idea how long this edict lasted or how many babies died. Was it a generation of Hebrews, which would mean there weren’t many men Moses’s age who were involved in the Exodus. But that’s another story.

From this Pharaoh who didn’t know Joseph, I think it’s easy to see how fear changes everything. From offering friendship, mutual cooperation, protection, and shared benefits to slavery and murder.

Fear wasn’t alone. There was some greed there, too. This Pharaoh wanted to use people, particularly those he saw as inferior.

Are there lessons in this story for Americans today in conjunction with immigration? I’d say so. And I’d say they are these: don’t let fear dictate policy, in this story called “dealing with them wisely”; and second, don’t use people. Don’t use them as a political football, and don’t use them to further the American economy

Not heeding those two simple points may have the same kind of dire consequences for the US that they had for Egypt back in the day.

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Published in: on September 4, 2018 at 5:08 pm  Comments Off on The Pharaoh Who Didn’t Know Joseph  
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Christians And Immigration


Tijuana-San_Ysidro_border_crossingFrom time to time I think Christians get on the wrong side of certain issues, not because of our theology but because of our opposition to those who typically take positions we disagree with. Take environmentalism, for example. Apart from the ridiculous extremes that put Humankind as subservient to nature, Christians should be doing all we can to preserve and protect creation. That’s the job God originally gave us.

Immigration is another such issue. Christians are taking an unbiblical stand on immigration much of the time. Here’s what God’s position on immigration is:

For the LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe. He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing. So show your love for the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. (Deut. 10:17-19)

No bribes? Good, good. We’re all for no bribes. Justice for orphans? Absolutely! Protect the orphans! For widows? Well, OK, though it sounds a little like welfare. But aliens? Love for aliens? Come on, don’t you realize . . . They might be here illegally. And we can’t condone illegal behavior. We simply have to maintain the rule of law.

I get the illegal issue, but I think that’s perhaps secondary. I think first Christians need to be front and center loving aliens and strangers—especially in America where we or our ancestors were most likely at some point aliens and strangers.

In fact, we celebrate and give thanks for the love our forefathers received when they were aliens and strangers in a holiday called Thanksgiving.

Now we’re in position to welcome, to show love toward, people who are new, who are learning the language, who . . . OK, I heard that . . . something like, But they AREN’T learning the language. Well, just maybe if we talked to them, we’d give them a reason to learn the language.

But think about being in a foreign country, where you don’t know how things work exactly, where you might be ridiculed for no other reason than that you came from somewhere else. Immigrants need love. They are precisely the neighbors Jesus said Christians are to love.

Yes, I think illegal immigration has muddied the waters. I do think we should be a land that believes in the rule of law. I do think people entering the country illegally should face some consequences.

But first, what we’ve been doing, isn’t working. Too many people who are sent back across the border because of their immigration status find a way to return.

Then, too, more and more people who have grown up in the US and who know no other home because they came here with their parents illegally as children, are facing the consequences of a decision they didn’t make and over which they had no control.

So what are we to do? I think Christians should become the vocal minority pushing for immigration reform. We need some brave lawmakers to step up and work out a fair law that will bring illegal immigrants the hope that they can become naturalized citizens without discouraging legal immigrants and without encouraging a new flood of illegal border crossings.

We also need to reach out to immigrants without worrying whether or not they are illegal. We should offer English as a second language classes and we should offer mentors who immigrants can go to when they have questions.

I’m sure there are many, many ways Christians can reach out to immigrants. My church makes a concerted effort to contact foreign students who are studying in our local universities. They are away from home, in a foreign country, adjusting to a different culture.

Sound familiar? Immigrants are going through those same things, so why shouldn’t we reach out to them in the same way, or more so? I mean, they’re staying, so we have a chance to build into their lives on a long term basis.

There are so many good things that would come out of Christians taking a stand to love immigrants. But above all, we’d be following the dictates of Scripture, and that ought to be enough.

It ought to be.

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Photo credit: © BrokenSphere / Wikimedia Commons

So What’s A Spiritual Fight?


I agree with one of the commenters yesterday that this discussion is going in many directions. I think that’s because this Glenn Beck-induced conversation is more complex than first meets the eye.

On one level we have Christians who want to live as God tells us to live and therefore want to be good citizens. Following behind are professing Christians (some genuine, some not) and moralists who want to see America restored to a place of external righteousness where we don’t have to worry so much about gangs and pornography, abortion and homosexuality, drunkenness and divorce, serial killers and rapists.

The problem is, we can do away with all those sins (and I would love it if we did), and still not bring a single person to Christ.

The “fix America” crowd has it backwards. First we “fix” people. Well, we don’t, Christ does. We obey Him and go about making disciples. A natural residual will be a nation more closely aligned to God’s will and His ways. How do people think America got where it was? It wasn’t by a bunch of pagans coming together and forming a government, then deciding they needed God to make it work better.

That’s where we are now. We are a post-Christian culture, run mostly by pagans. How can we expect pagans to act “Christian”? We ought not because they won’t, except those whose religion demands it of them.

Which brings us back to Glenn Beck and the third tier in this confused scenario. Some Christians are critical of a Mormon leading a restoration. (Others apparently object to Glenn Beck himself because of his brash ways—offensive to some, slanderous to others).

Some bloggers have pointed out Beck’s possible conflicted religious beliefs since he came from a Catholic background and converted to Mormonism because of his wife’s (then, girlfriend’s) strong Mormon beliefs.

One of the commenters to yesterday’s post pointed out that there are many divisions of the Mormon church, so, the thinking goes, it’s a little hard to know what Glenn Beck actually believes. Maybe he really is a Christian.

I am not his judge. God alone knows his heart. I can tell you what the Mormon church believes about Jesus and what they believed at the outset about America. From Religion in America (and I apologize in advance for the lengthy quotes):

[Joseph Smith] “retired to the woods” to seek wisdom of God. His prayer was answered by the appearance of two heavenly personages—the Father and the Son—who told him to hold himself apart from the contending denominations … he was guided by the angel Moroni to discover long-buried golden plates which told the story of the Nephites and Lamanites, descendants of a lost tribe of Israel, who had inhabited the American continent centuries before. Among them Christ had appeared after his resurrection and had established the proper church order …

Nor in view of this heritage is it surprising that when young Joseph Smith on October 30, 1830, met with five friends in Fayette, New York, to restore “the Church of Christ in these last days,” he should have chosen the typically Campellite designation of “Church of Christ” for his reincarnation of the ancient order of church life …

The whole biblical setting of the drama of salvation was transferred to an American setting. To the successive declarations of political, economic, diplomatic, and intellectual independence penned by Jefferson, Clay, Monroe, and Emerson was now added a declaration of religious independence. The Old World heritage was declared to be both obsolete and irrelevant, for the restoration of the true church was dependent upon the recovery of an independent American tradition which extended back to the time of the Babylonian Exile and had been validated by the postresurrection appearance of Christ on American shores

In the course of time more distinctive doctrines were elaborated—a plurality of gods, for example, as well as of wives—which set the Mormons further and further apart from the generality of Christians. Adaptations of masonic ritual were introduced, marriage for time and eternity was adopted, baptism for the dead was instituted, and the priesthood of Melchizedek was restored by the miraculous intervention of Peter, James, and John. (pp 190-192, emphasis mine)

These quotes are eye-opening to me. Is it any surprise that a Mormon would want to see America restored, since their foundation was predicated upon America’s importance to salvation? But does a Mormon’s “restoration” look anything like a Christian’s “restoration”? I think not.

But the real issue is what do Mormons believe about Jesus. Already it’s clear they believe a lot that isn’t in the Bible. But next time, hopefully, I’ll take a closer look at why their statements about Jesus and a Christian’s statements can sound so much the same and mean something so very different.

Published in: on September 9, 2010 at 3:53 pm  Comments (5)  
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