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The Devil in the Details

by Sydney Avey  
1/16/2012 / Devotionals

In the King James Version of the Bible I am transported by the beauty of the words and engaged by the sentence structure. I search for meaning in the placement of a noun or verb. That's why it is refreshing to read different translations.

This year I'm reading the One-year Chronological New Living Translation and it's he story that 'pops.' This week's reading juxtaposes two of my favorite Bible narratives, the story of Joseph and the story of Job. The similarities are striking.

Both men are surrounded by people who should love and support them but Joseph's brothers and Job's friends choose to serve their own interests. The brothers shove Joseph into a well of imprisonment and the friends abandon Job in a well of condemnation. The stage is set for God to reveal his plan.

A careful reading of both stories shows the devil in the details. The Canaanite's begin to show up in the Abraham's lineage (Genesis 46:10). This will lead to idol worship that will plague God's people. The brothers ignore Joseph's warning not to tell Pharaoh they are shepherds. The Egyptians despise shepherds. Within a few generations they would come to despise the Israelites.

But God's hand in events is stronger. When Reuben promises to keep Benjamin safe, Jacob is adamant in his refusal. When Judah makes the same promise, Jacob not only accepts his offer, he reverses his position.

"But if I must lose my children, so be it. (Genesis 43:14)."

Later in the book, God's purpose is clear. Reuben has forfeited his firstborn status because of his behavior. It is Judah, a man with a protective spirit, who will carry the line that will produce the King.

Before his death, Joseph frames the struggle between good and evil in what has become one of the strongest tenets of the Christian faith.

"You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good." (Genesis 50:20)

To move from the blessed life of Joseph to the cursed life of Job is to grapple with the complexities of our faith. Job gives voice to every question we have ever asked God and every misgiving we have harbored.

"Why is life given to those with no future, those God has surrounded with difficulties?" (Job 3:23)

"What I always feared has happened to me." (Job 3:25)

"But I don't have the strength to endure." (Job 6:11)

Like the sacrifice Abraham offered to God, cut down the middle and laid out for the flaming torch to pass between the halves of the carcasses (Genesis 15:17) God will deal with Job's questions in next week's reading. How encouraging to discover this week that the answer actually lives in Job's heart.

"If only there were a mediator between us, someone who could bring us together. The mediator could make God stop beating me, and I would no longer live in terror of his punishment. Then I could speak to him without fear, but I cannot do that in my own strength." (Job 9:33-35)

There is a mediator. His name is Jesus!

Sydney Avey writes and blogs in the Sierra Nevada Foothills. She is the author of The Sheep Walker's Daughter.

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