Until He Comes

“Judah, your brothers will praise you;
    your hand will be on the neck of your enemies;
    your father’s sons will bow down to you.
You are a lion’s cub, Judah;
    you return from the prey, my son.
Like a lion he crouches and lies down,
    like a lioness—who dares to rouse him?

The scepter will not depart from Judah,
    nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until he to whom it belongs shall come
    and the obedience of the nations shall be his.
Genesis 49:8-10
As I write this blog, we as a church are about to wrap up our time in Genesis. I had the opportunity to preach week 1 this Summer, and I told you all that I would probably call it my favorite book of the Bible. The way in which so many characters get their first taste of interacting with an unknown God is fascinating to watch, and the way in which God reveals himself to this host of men and women is exciting,thought provoking, terrifying, and endearing. There is such a wide variety of stories to explore, and each offers such interesting and life-changing glimpses of what it means to be a human in God’s world, and what God is doing among us. It ends with an encouraging reminder that what Joseph’s brothers, and indeed, all of the wicked (or well intentioned) people of this book meant for evil, God has reworked into good. A fitting end to the first chapter of the larger story of scripture.

That said though, because of many of our upbringings, the most natural thing for us to do might just be to walk away with some moral takeaways, or short, comforting platitudes. We might look back at the characters, admire some of their more admirable traits, reject some of their more negative, and call it a day, thinking about ways that we can live a little more like that. And while their are absolutely lessons for us to learn in the lives of these men and women, to make that our ultimate takeaway from this story would be to come up short.

Genesis is not primarily the story of a few men from the family of Abraham learning moral lessons, it is the accounting of the acts of God in order to purpose a family toward an ultimate destiny. He is working good out of evil not primarily in that he is making better people and more comfortable situations, but in that he is carving a path toward the true man who will restore creation (and along the way, in his grace, calling the family of that man into a life that is befitting of their calling).

The reality is that our main takeaway from Genesis should not be a smattering of moral lessons, but an altered perception of our world. The book is working to change us into future-oriented people who mourn the loss of what could have been and what now exists as a result, and yet look forward to the future restoration of all things that God has already begun working out. Within that framework we are pilgrims being restored ourselves, and the pain of life, once thought of as irreversible ugliness is recast as that which can be used toward future glory. The pilgrims of Genesis offer us conversation partners with whom we can discuss the pains of our world, the murkiness of our circumstances, the reality of our failures, and the persistent graciousness and initiative of God as he rearranges it all into a path toward future blessing. In the first coming of Jesus we see that their hopes were not in vain, and now we in our own time, with so many similar circumstances, are offered the same reassurance and hope.

I hope the book has been a blessing to you this summer, and that it continues to be “...until he to whom it belongs shall come…”

Dan Vandzura