We are about to have a huge narrative jump on Sunday when it comes to the Old Testament readings. Last week Joseph was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers. This upcoming Sunday Joseph, now serving in the court of Pharaoh, is reunited with his brothers. The week after that, we leave Genesis behind entirely and move into the book of Exodus.
So the lectionary, which spent weeks detailing the marriages of Abraham descendants, gives you only the very beginning and the very end of the story of Joseph.
What’s missing? Joseph being owned by Potiphar. Joseph rejecting Potiphar’s wife and then being imprisoned unjustly. Joseph interpreting the dreams of two prisoners. Joseph being given the chance to interpret the dreams of the Pharaoh regarding an approaching famine, and given a position of great authority. Finally, Joseph’s family, his brothers in particular, coming to Egypt to seek refuge from the famine. Joseph is reunited with his family, and praises God for being behind the entire story in order to preserve the family of Jacob, who will become the forefathers of the twelve tribes of Israel.
It is a well encapsulated story with a happy ending and themes that are familiar to the reader, like sibling rivalry. But at its heart it is also a story about the providence of God–the steady governing hand of God that is constantly moving the story of God’s people towards life and salvation. That providence can exist even in some grim contexts: envy, human trafficking, deceit, and famine. I didn’t even get into the small interlude of Judah’s mistreatment of his daughter-in-law Tamar, resulting in her having to secretly prostitute herself to her father-in-law in order to preserve her economic security, and that relationship is the *direct* bloodline of Jesus.
These times are ones in which we need to hear every story of hope that we can, and I hope that the story of Joseph, even though we miss most of it on Sunday, can be one that we appreciate today.