Origins – God Who is Present

This is the radio devotion for Friday, July 10, 2020. Thanks to KCNI for airing these devotions from the Custer County Ministerial Association.

Have you ever heard someone talking with assurance about what God is doing in their life and questioned how they could be so certain of God’s presence or activity?

Good morning. I’m Matt Fowler, the pastor of Broken Bow United Methodist Church. This summer, I’m preaching on through Genesis – which means “origins” – and there’s so much there I wanted to take a different angle this week. Genesis helps us know who God is, and who we are as God’s people.

Given all the direct speech from God, and the very active role God plays in the stories of the patriarchs this week, Genesis 37-50 takes an interesting turn. You might know this story best through the Broadway musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Genesis 37-50 do not include any direct speech from God, and in multiple chapters, there is no mention of God at all.

These chapters tell the story of Joseph, Jacob’s eleventh son. God gives him dreams of the future, which anger his brothers. Tired of his dreams of superiority, they sell Joseph into slavery. Joseph’s story rises and falls as the years pass. He runs a prominent household, then gets wrongfully imprisoned. He interprets Pharaoh’s dreams and then rises in power within Pharaoh’s household. Finally, he is reunited with his brothers and father, providing for their needs in the midst of a terrible famine.

So, here’s the question: what do we make of this story of human frailty, desperation, brokenness, and redemption, especially considering that God never speaks in it?

I wonder if one of the greatest gifts of the story of Joseph in Genesis is that it gives us space to see ourselves and our lives within the story of scripture. We know both struggle and peace. We know both familial joy and heartbreak. We know both failure and success. And, in many cases, we experience these and other things of life without God’s direct speech into our lives in any audible or unmistakable way.

And yet, it would not be accurate to say of either Joseph’s story or our own, that God is not present. Instead, Joseph’s story reveals what we know to be true through the lens of faith: that God who was active in the stories of the patriarchs, and in our past, continues to be present and active in our present, guiding us toward a future of hope, blessing, and promise. We see this especially clearly in the pivotal scene in which Joseph is reunited with his father Jacob along with his brothers. Joseph tells them, twice, that “God sent me before you to preserve life” (v. 5 and 7). Joseph, in a present moment of hindsight, sees God’s presence and action in all the events of his life, leading him to a moment of opportunity – a moment to bless. And herein, God’s promise to Abram and Sarai so long ago – blessed to be a blessing – becomes a present reality and a future hope.

Let’s pray. God, who was, and is, and is to come, give us eyes to see your presence, give us words to proclaim your grace, and give us courage to live with hope of your promised blessing. May it be so.

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