Thoughts for Saturday 22nd August 2020

Psalm 124; Genesis 50:15-26; Matthew 16:5-12

Saturday 22 August

I’m never very sure about Joseph’s theology here in this passage. When he says, ‘You plotted evil against me, but God turned it into good,’ at verse 20, I do wonder whether he is just trying to make his brothers feel a bit better about the dreadful thing they did. It reminds me of something positive Lord George MacLeod once said about shipwrecks of timber washed up on the shores of Iona, which helped him to rebuild its abbey. He focussed on the providence of God, rather than on the misery experienced by those who’d either run aground or sunk. And by so doing ran the danger, I think, of wrongly mitigating suffering. Which is not to notice that the main point of this part of the story is Joseph’s spirit of forgiveness.

Companion passages to Genesis 50 are to be found at Exodus 13:19:

Moses took the body of Joseph with him, as Joseph had made the Israelites solemnly promise to do. Joseph had said, “When God rescues you, you must carry my body with you from this place”, and Joshua 24:32:

The body of Joseph, which the people of Israel had brought from Egypt, was buried at Shechem, in the piece of land that Jacob had bought from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem, for a hundred pieces of silver. This land was inherited by Joseph's descendants.

The numbers in Matthew 16 are a bit of a puzzle, most commentators claiming that the 5 loaves for 5,000 people are a reference to the five books of Moses, and mean that this had been a feeding exclusively for Jewish people; while the 7 loaves for 4,000 people are a reference to the completion of God’s task (7) as the Gospel is then taken to the north, south, east and west (4) i.e. this had been a feeding that included Gentiles.

Yeast is still a powerful symbol within Judaism. I remember once attending a Passover Seder meal a few years ago, when there was a search for any remaining yeast left in the house after it had already been thoroughly swept. Two of my daughters (who were at Primary School at the time) were given the task, and as well as a reward, there was also an expression of joy that the last bit of yeast had now been found. For Jesus, therefore, to have mentioned yeast in the way he does, in order to criticise fellow teachers would, I believe, have been quite incendiary.

Let us pray (a prayer by Martin Fair):

Unchanging God, we love to hear the old, old story. And it’s a story worth remembering - of how you have loved us and chosen us and made us your people. And all of these stories we see coming together beauPfully in the life and death and rising again of Jesus - this Jesus who is present to us even now through the Holy Spirit.

This morning, Lord, we pray that as you have put breath in our lungs so you will put a new song in our hearts - and that, from a growing awareness of the new thing that you are doing.

Forgive us for when we have been welded to the past such that we’ve been blinded to the present, and to what you are saying to us now and to where you are leading us now.

In the singing of a new song, remind us that you have called us to be people of the way and that it is in walking that way that we’ll discover you walking with us.

Gracious God, would you feed us and would you lead us - into this day and into the new day.

And as you go:
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rain fall soft upon your fields
and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of his hand.
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.



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