By the Rt Revd Stephen Platten
Yesterday’s reading ended with the extraordinary story of Joseph’s brothers finding the money they had taken with them to buy grain, back in their bags, when they arrived home. When they return for more grain, Joseph tricks them again, packing a silver cup in their luggage. Benjamin, the youngest son, is then to be held as hostage. Joseph breaks down with emotion revealing his true identity and sends them back to bring Jacob, their father. They are then given land in Egypt. The story’s underlying message is of generosity. As with all the Joseph saga it is a tale about the goodness of God to his people.
Today’s psalm is a well known piece of poetry. It describes the pattern of a Godly life. In Matthew’s Gospel we encounter Jesus in dispute with the scribes and Pharisees. The dispute is about purity laws, but Jesus uses it to pick up a similar theme to our psalm. It is not the flouting of laws of purity that are the key issue – instead, we are defiled by failing to live a Godly life. In contrast to those pious Jews, known to follow the law, the next story sees Jesus encounter a foreigner, a Canaanite woman. Her faith and her humble answer to Jesus’ question mark her out as a true follower of him. These two contrasting tales take us into a second feeding, this time of 4,000 people, not dissimilar to the story we read two days ago about the 5,000.
One of the abiding truths about the Bible is how we learn of God’s ways with humankind through story. The Joseph narratives and the gospel stories offer us a similar way of learning of God’s love and of the life he would have us live. Today’s psalm is a commentary on just this manner of learning.
How is Joseph’s trickery of his brothers still part of the generous tale of God’s love?
How do we square the Pharisee’s true piety with the more radical command of Jesus about defilement?
Loving Father, you show your love for us through those who nurture us and care for us along the way, give us the generosity to allow that same love to pour out to others in the service of our Saviour Jesus Christ.