Trusting the Story

"Whoever endures to the end will be saved" (Matt 10:22).

The story of Israel (Jacob) and how he and his family went down to Egypt) is part of a longer rhythm of events that show how bad things come from good things and good things come from bad.  There is wisdom to be found in this lesson that helps us keep going forward, no matter what happens. 

The narrative begins with the betrayal of Joseph by his jealous brothers, who sell him into slavery. But from this tragic event, Joseph positions himself in Egypt to be the one who saves the family in a time of famine, a very good outcome. But the survival of Israel and his people requires that they go down to Egypt. At first they benefit from relocation, but over time a new pharaoh comes to power who enslaves the Israelites. 

After generations of oppression, the stage is set for Moses to be called to lead the descendants of Israel-- the Hebrews -- out of slavery. They are liberated, but then find themselves in the wilderness for 40 years. Conquest of the land of Canaan gives the Hebrews their new homeland, a great blessing, but with success they soon want to imitate other nations by accepting a king.  Glory is followed by corruption and the eventual collapse of the kingdom and deportation to Babylon. 

This pattern of success and failure was hardly evident as each event occurred. Who could know that something good would occasion the next disaster, or that each disaster would purify the people through suffering for the next covenant with God? But the message was clear. What seems like misfortune leads to success, and what seems like success leads to failure. 

Jesus sends his Apostles into the world knowing that his same pattern will prevail. He wants them to be prepared so they will not lose heart in times of adversity and persecution. They must be able to discern the hand of God in each event, to be as shrewd as serpents while keeping their innocence as doves.  So the church would survive successive ages with the rhythm of constancy and change, gain and loss, success and suffering, growth and reform.  

Each Christian will find this same wisdom through the ups and downs of life. The Holy Spirit accompanies us and interprets for us the deeper meaning of each turn in the road, each advance or retreat. The message is that God will never abandon us, but will see to it that we reach our destination, the fullness of life.