God’s ways are not always the ways of humanity. Time and time again we are reminded of this fact in scripture. The Old Testament is a place where this is rich and well developed.
In today’s OT passage, Jacob brings his entire family to Egypt after drought and famine had ravaged Israel. Just the name of “Jacob” is a reminder of how God’s ways are not the ways of humans. If you remember, Jacob was the younger brother of Esau. They tangled at birth, and then later Jacob and his mother helped deceive his father into thinking that he was Esau, stealing the blessing. Esau was set to inherit it all – and the double blessing of progeny and land would pass to Esau. Well, God had other plans, and chose Jacob, despite human tradition about the first born.
Now Jacob has 12 sons. Again we see reversal. Joseph is by no means the eldest son. In today’s reading, we see more than just birth order reversed. In fact, the entire generation is turned on its head. God has to reassure Jacob, “I am God, the God of your father; do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make of you a great nation there.”
There is reason to be nervous! This trip puts his entire linage in jeopardy. And he is now leaving the land that was promised to his grandfather. What is going on?
We see God’s blessing coming from Joseph – who has taken on the persona of a foreigner. Son blesses father. Son becomes foreigner. Foreign land blesses the Chosen land people.
What does this tell us about God? We are shown a God who does not follow the rules, and yet his blessings are made known. Trust and faith seem paramount. Land and progeny are secondary, and are automatically taken care of if one trusts in God’s upside-down world.
This all makes for good reading. Genesis is chuck full of colorful and transformative stories of God’s goodness – stories in which we become the heirs of that goodness.