Sunday, February 8, 2015

Listen Carefully; Answer Honestly. Genesis 40:12-19

May the mumbling commence!

Listen carefully so that you can use your gifts to glorify God.  Joseph was learning this wisdom slowly in prison.  Read from Peterson’s The Message:

            Joseph said, “Here’s the meaning:  The three branches are three days.  Within three days, Pharaoh will get you out of here and put you back to your old work – you’ll be giving Pharaoh his cup just as you used to do when you were his cupbearer.  Only remember me when things are going well with you again – tell Pharaoh about me and get me out of this place.  I was kidnapped from the land of the Hebrews.  And since I’ve been here, I’ve done nothing to deserve being put in this hole.”
            When the head baker saw how well Joseph interpretation turned out, he spoke up: “My dream went like this: I saw three wicker baskets on my head; the top basket had assorted pastries from the bakery and birds were picking at them from the basket on my head.”
            Joseph said, “This is the interpretation: The three baskets are three days; within three days Pharaoh will take off your head, impale you on a post, and the birds will pick your bones clean.”  (Genesis 40:12-19)

Now read the same passage from the NIV translation:

"This is what it means," Joseph said to him. "The three branches are three days.  Within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your position, and you will put Pharaoh's cup in his hand, just as you used to do when you were his cupbearer.  But when all goes well with you, remember me and show me kindness; mention me to Pharaoh and get me out of this prison.  For I was forcibly carried off from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing to deserve being put in a dungeon." 
When the chief baker saw that Joseph had given a favorable interpretation, he said to Joseph, "I too had a dream: On my head were three baskets of bread.  In the top basket were all kinds of baked goods for Pharaoh, but the birds were eating them out of the basket on my head." 
"This is what it means," Joseph said. "The three baskets are three days.  Within three days Pharaoh will lift off your head and hang you on a tree. And the birds will eat away your flesh."  (Genesis 40:12-19)

Of all the changes made (and there’s lots of red), only one catches my attention.  I like the parallelism of the beginning of Joseph’s answers to the two men.  Three branches and three baskets both equal three days.  Pharaoh will lift both of their heads. The baker must have been ready to jump for joy.  Another positive dream interpretation.

Then comes the crash.  Although the cupbearer will be restored to his old position… his head will be lifted up, the baker will have his head lifted off.  Ouch!

Joseph listened to both of them.  He empathized with them.  He was walking in the same shoes in the dungeon.

But he gave each man the interpretation that the dreams required, as God led him… good or bad.  Joseph told them like it was… no sugarcoating.

I miss that parallelism in Peterson’s work.  That part of the message of the passage gets lost in the changes.

In this life, there is very little room for errors.  Thank God for the saving work of Jesus!

Enough mumbling for now…

Peace Out

Sensitive Listener. Genesis 40:1-11

May the mumbling commence!

Joseph shows knowledge of and compassion for his fellow prisoners.  He seeks to aid them with his God-given talents.  Would we do the same!?!  Read from Peterson’s The Message:

            As time went on, it happened that the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt crossed their master, the king of Egypt.  Pharaoh was furious with his two officials, the head cupbearer and the head baker, and put them in custody under the captain of the guard; it was the same jail where Joseph was held.  The captain of the guard assigned Joseph to see to their needs.
            After they had been in custody for a while, the king’s cupbearer and baker, while being held in jail, both had a dream on the same night, each dream having its own meaning.  When Joseph arrived in the morning, he noticed that they were feeling low.  So he asked them, the two officials of Pharaoh who had been thrown into jail with him, “What’s wrong?  Why the long faces?”
            They said, “We dreamed dreams and there’s no one to interpret them.”
            Joseph said, “Don’t interpretations come from God?  Tell me the dreams.”
            First the cupbearer told his dream to Joseph:  “In my dream there was a vine in front of me with three branches on it:  It budded, blossomed, and the clusters ripened into grapes.  I was holding Pharaoh’s cup; I took the grapes, squeezed them into Pharaoh’s cup, and gave the cup to Pharaoh.”  (Genesis 40:1-11)

Now read the same passage from the NIV translation:

Some time later, the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt offended their master, the king of Egypt.  Pharaoh was angry with his two officials, the chief cupbearer and the chief baker, and put them in custody in the house of the captain of the guard, in the same prison where Joseph was confined.  The captain of the guard assigned them to Joseph, and he attended them.
After they had been in custody for some time, each of the two men – the cupbearer and the baker of the king of Egypt, who were being held in prison – had a dream the same night, and each dream had a meaning of its own. 
When Joseph came to them the next morning, he saw that they were dejected.  So he asked Pharaoh's officials who were in custody with him in his master's house, "Why are your faces so sad today?" 
"We both had dreams," they answered, "but there is no one to interpret them."
Then Joseph said to them, "Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams." 
So the chief cupbearer told Joseph his dream. He said to him, "In my dream I saw a vine in front of me, and on the vine were three branches. As soon as it budded, it blossomed, and its clusters ripened into grapes.  Pharaoh's cup was in my hand, and I took the grapes, squeezed them into Pharaoh's cup and put the cup in his hand."  (Genesis 40:1-11)

In today’s passage, I think I will take issue with only one small change.  Do interpretation of dreams “come from God” (Peterson) or do they “belong to God” (NIV)?  Most of the translations go with “belong to”.  

Is there a significant difference between the two… especially with the following statement “tell me your dreams”?  Prepositions are tricky critters in translation, so I don’t want to read too much into it.  But it’s something to think about.  I lean toward the more common translation of “belong to”.

I am a bus driver.  After having the same people ride the bus numerous times, I get to know them enough that I can tell if they’re having a good day or a bad day.  Apparently, after a short time of care under Joseph, the cupbearer and the baker were known by Joseph.  Joseph knew they were feeling down.  May we all be so sensitive to our fellow journeyers!

And Joseph took time to listen.  May we give the gift of our undivided attention and time to those we love.  It is a rare gift!  And let’s allow God to work through us.

Enough mumbling for now…

Peace Out

The Price of Faithfulness. Genesis 39:11-23

May the mumbling commence!

To remain faithful to God there is a price to be paid.  Sometimes it’s high.  But, if we are willing to pay that price, God will bless us wherever we land.  Joseph was learning that in this stage of his life.  Read from Peterson’s The Message:

                On one of those days he came to the house to do his work and none of the household servants happened to be there.  She grabbed him by his cloak, saying, “Sleep with me!”  He left his coat in her hand and ran out of the house.  When she realized that he had left his coat in her hand and run outside, she called to her house servants: “Look – this Hebrew shows up and before you know it he’s trying to seduce us.  He tried to make love to me but I yelled as loud as I could.  With all my yelling and screaming, he left his coat with me and ran outside.”
                She kept the coat right there until his master came home.  She told him the same story.  She said, “The Hebrew slave, the one you brought to us, came after me and tried to use me for his plaything.  When I yelled and screamed, he left his coat with me and ran outside.”
                When his master heard his wife’s story, telling him, “These are the things your slave did to me,” he was furious.  Joseph’s master took him and threw him into jail where the king’s prisoners were locked up.  But there in jail God was still with Joseph: He reached out in kindness to him; he put him on good terms with the head jailer.  The head jailer put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners – he ended up managing the whole operation.  The head jailer gave Joseph free reign, never even checked on him, because God was with him; whatever he did God made sure it worked out for the best.  (Genesis 39:11-23)

Now read the same passage from the NIV translation:

One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside.  She caught him by his cloak and said, "Come to bed with me!" But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house. 
When she saw that he had left his cloak in her hand and had run out of the house, she called her household servants. "Look," she said to them, "this Hebrew has been brought to us to make sport of us! He came in here to sleep with me, but I screamed.  When he heard me scream for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house." 
She kept his cloak beside her until his master came home.  Then she told him this story: "That Hebrew slave you brought us came to me to make sport of me.  But as soon as I screamed for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house." 
When his master heard the story his wife told him, saying, "This is how your slave treated me," he burned with anger.  Joseph's master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king's prisoners were confined.
But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden.  So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in the prison, and he was made responsible for all that was done there.  The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph's care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.  (Genesis 39:11-23)

Though there is much red, there seems to be no significant differences.  Peterson’s updating appears to be consistent with the heart and soul of this passage.  Let’s focus on that heart and soul…

Trying to be true to God by serving his master faithfully, Joseph paid the price.  Potiphar’s wife set Joseph up.  First, she set up a private meeting with Joseph.  She had to know his duties and when he would be arriving to do them.  She made sure that no one else was with them.  And she tried to force herself on Joseph.

Joseph ran from temptation.  We can learn from that.  He ran pell-mell and left his cloak behind.  Run from temptation!

Fleeing had its price, though.  Potiphar’s wife claimed that Joseph was doing to her what she was actually unsuccessfully trying to do to him.  Oh, the irony!

And she knew how to manipulate.  When she spoke to the servants, she included them in Joseph’s alleged sexual aggressiveness.  When she spoke to her husband, she said the attack was personal only to her.  

She wanted to get maximum negative responses from each different party.  She wanted that so that no investigation would happen.  She knew that any kind of investigation would be bad for her.

So Joseph was demoted from a slave to a prisoner.  Still, God was with him.  And Joseph prospered and excelled at all he did.  When we faithfully follow the Lord, we will be successful… though not in the eyes of the world, necessarily.

Enough mumbling for now…

Peace Out

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Stand Your Ground! Genesis 39:1-10

May the mumbling commence!

Even in exile in a foreign land, it’s important to stay true to God.  Staying true will benefit you and all the people around you.  Read some more of Joseph’s story from Peterson’s The Message:

After Joseph had been taken to Egypt by the Ishmaelites, Potiphar an Egyptian, one of Pharaoh’s officials and the manager of his household, bought him from them.
As it turned out, God was with Joseph and things went very well with him.  He ended up living in the home of his Egyptian master.  His master recognized that God was with him, saw that God was working for good in everything he did.  He became very fond of Joseph and made him his personal aide.  He put him in charge of all his personal affairs, turning everything over to him.  From that moment on, God blessed the home of the Egyptian – all because of Joseph.  The blessing of God spread over everything he owned, at home and in the fields, and all Potiphar had to concern himself with was eating three meals a day.
Joseph was a strikingly handsome man.  As time went on, his master’s wife became infatuated with Joseph and one day said, “Sleep with me.”
He wouldn’t do it.  He said to his master’s wife, “Look, with me here, my master doesn’t give a second thought to anything that goes on here – he’s put me in charge of everything he owns.  He treats me as an equal.  The only thing he hasn’t turned over to me is you.  You’re his wife, after all!  How could I violate his trust and sin against God?”
She pestered him day after day, but he stood his ground.  He refused to go to bed with her.  (Genesis 39:1-10)

Now read the same passage from the NIV translation:

Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh's officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there. 
The Lord was with Joseph and he prospered, and he lived in the house of his Egyptian master.  When his master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor in his eyes and became his attendant. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned.  From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field.  So he left in Joseph's care everything he had; with Joseph in charge, he did not concern himself with anything except the food he ate.
Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, and after a while his master's wife took notice of Joseph and said, "Come to bed with me!" 
But he refused. "With me in charge," he told her, "my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care.  No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?"  And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her.  (Genesis 39:1-10)

Again, I’m not sure why Peterson makes the change from captain of the guard to the manager of his household.  It’s puzzling to me.  Other than that, there are no significant changes in today’s passage.

What is certain is that infatuation… or lust… or a crush never leads to anything good – especially when the person infatuated with the other person has power over them, as it is in this case.  It might have been easy to comply… to not make waves and risk disturbing his relationship with Potiphar and his family.  Thing were good… quite blessed actually.

But Joseph knew the source of his blessings – the Lord.  And he knew that God would be offended if Joseph chose to take advantage of Potiphar’s trust in Joseph.  Joseph knew that the sin would be first and foremost a sin against God… the God of love, the God of relationship.

What about us?  Can we make a stand for the Lord when the going gets tough or when the going gets seductive?  Let’s stand our ground and seek to be on God’s side.

Enough mumbling for now…

Peace Out

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Judah Wanders Away - Part 3. Genesis 38:24-30

May the mumbling commence!

Talk about having egg on your face!  A person’s true nature will eventually come out.  Read from Peterson’s The Message:

            Three months or so later, Judah was told, “Your daughter-in-law had been playing the whore – and now she’s a pregnant whore.”
            Judah yelled, “Get her out here.  Burn her up!”
            As they brought her out, she sent a message to her father-in-law, “I’m pregnant by the man who owns these things.  Identify them, please.  Who’s the owner of the seal-and-cord and the staff?”
            Judah saw they were his.  He said, “She’s in the right; I’m in the wrong – I wouldn’t let her marry my son Shelah.”  He never slept with her again.
            When the time came to give birth, it turned out that there were twins in her womb.  As she was giving birth, one put his hand out; the midwife tied a red thread on his hand saying, “This one came out first.”  But then he pulled it back and his brother came out.  She said, “Oh!  A breakout!”  So she named him Perez (Breakout).  Then his brother came out with the red thread on his hand.  They named him Zerah (Bright).  (Genesis 38:24-30)

Now read the same passage from the NIV translation:

About three months later Judah was told, "Your daughter-in-law Tamar is guilty of prostitution, and as a result she is now pregnant."
Judah said, "Bring her out and have her burned to death!" 
As she was being brought out, she sent a message to her father-in-law. "I am pregnant by the man who owns these," she said. And she added, "See if you recognize whose seal and cord and staff these are." 
Judah recognized them and said, "She is more righteous than I, since I wouldn't give her to my son Shelah." And he did not sleep with her again. 
When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb.  As she was giving birth, one of them put out his hand; so the midwife took a scarlet thread and tied it on his wrist and said, "This one came out first."  But when he drew back his hand, his brother came out, and she said, "So this is how you have broken out!" And he was named Perez.  Then his brother, who had the scarlet thread on his wrist, came out and he was given the name Zerah.  (Genesis 38:24-30)

Peterson strikes the word that many of us would find offensive not once but twice.  The men called her a whore.  The NIV still packs some punch by calling her guilty of prostitution.

Judah had some righteous wrath.  Burn her!  He had it at least until he saw the seal, cord and staff.  Then he was deflated.

Judah knew he was in the wrong.  He was withholding his son Shelah from Tamar.  Judah was forcing Tamar to earn her living from prostitution.  And he took advantage of her vulnerability.

Yep!  That’s egg on the face in spades.

It is things like these that I think about in the passage from the gospel according to John where the adulterous woman is brought out to be stoned.  These were likely the kinds of things that Jesus was writing in the dirt.

Enough mumbling for now…

Peace Out

Judah Wanders Away - Part 2. Genesis 38:12-23

May the mumbling commence!

The deceivers are once again deceived.  Oh, the irony!  Read from Peterson’s The Message:

            Time passed.  Judah’s wife, Shua’s daughter, died.  When the time of mourning was over, Judah with his friend Hirah of Adullam went to Timnah for the sheep shearing.
                Tamar was told, “Your father-in-law had gone to Timnah to shear his sheep.”  She took off her widow’s clothes, put on a veil to disguise herself, and sat at the entrance to Enaim which is on the road to Timnah.  She realized by now that even though Shelah was grown up, she wasn’t going to be married to him.
                Judah saw her and assumed she was a prostitute since she had veiled her face.  He left the road and went over to her.  He said, “Let me sleep with you.”  He had no idea that she was his daughter-in-law.
                She said, “What will you pay me?”
                “I’ll send you,” he said, “a kid goat from the flock.”
                She said, “Not unless you give me a pledge until you send it.”
                “So what would you want in the way of a pledge?”
                She said, “Your personal seal-and-cord and the staff that you carry.”
                He handed them over to her and slept with her.  And she got pregnant.
                She then left and went home.  She removed her veil and put on her widow’s clothes back on.
                Judah sent the kid goat by his friend Adullam to recover the pledge from the woman.  But he couldn’t find her.  He asked the men of that place, “Where’s the prostitute that used to sit by the road here near Enaim?”
                They said, “There’s never been a prostitute here.”
                He went back to Judah and said, “I couldn’t find her.  The men there said there never has been a prostitute there.”
                Judah said, “Let her have it then.  If we keep looking, everyone will be poking fun at us.  I kept my part of the bargain – I sent the kid goat but you couldn’t find her.”  (Genesis 38:12-23)

Now read the same passage from the NIV translation:

After a long time Judah's wife, the daughter of Shua, died. When Judah had recovered from his grief, he went up to Timnah, to the men who were shearing his sheep, and his friend Hirah the Adullamite went with him. 
When Tamar was told, "Your father-in-law is on his way to Timnah to shear his sheep," she took off her widow's clothes, covered herself with a veil to disguise herself, and then sat down at the entrance to Enaim, which is on the road to Timnah. For she saw that, though Shelah had now grown up, she had not been given to him as his wife. 
When Judah saw her, he thought she was a prostitute, for she had covered her face.  Not realizing that she was his daughter-in-law, he went over to her by the roadside and said, "Come now, let me sleep with you."
"And what will you give me to sleep with you?" she asked. 
"I'll send you a young goat from my flock," he said.
"Will you give me something as a pledge until you send it?" she asked. 
He said, "What pledge should I give you?"
"Your seal and its cord, and the staff in your hand," she answered. So he gave them to her and slept with her, and she became pregnant by him.  After she left, she took off her veil and put on her widow's clothes again. 
Meanwhile Judah sent the young goat by his friend the Adullamite in order to get his pledge back from the woman, but he did not find her.  He asked the men who lived there, "Where is the shrine prostitute who was beside the road at Enaim?"
"There hasn't been any shrine prostitute here," they said. 
So he went back to Judah and said, "I didn't find her. Besides, the men who lived there said, 'There hasn't been any shrine prostitute here.'" 
Then Judah said, "Let her keep what she has, or we will become a laughingstock. After all, I did send her this young goat, but you didn't find her."  (Genesis 38:12-23)

It seems that Peterson’s misnomer about Shua being the name of Judah’s wife is now rectified.  It makes me wonder more about the reason for that ambiguous distinction in the first place.

And Judah is fooled by Tamar’s dress.  He thinks she’s a shrine prostitute.  The “shrine” designation is important.  Five of the nine translations that I looked at include that distinction in one form or another.  It shows clearly the unrighteousness of Judah.  He was frequenting shrine prostitutes.  He was embracing other gods.

Judah should be more worried about how God will react to his behaviors and attitudes than how other people will see him!  

Enough mumbling for now…  

Peace Out