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Windows into the Light by Michael Sullivan

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Signposts: Daily Devotions

Friday, March 13

So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the long robe with sleeves that he wore; and they took him and cast him into a pit. The pit was empty, there was no water in it. Then they sat down to eat; and looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing gum, balm, and myrrh, on their way to carry it down to Egypt.
—Genesis 37: 23-28

Things don’t look good for Joseph.

Tired of their father’s love for his youngest son, Joseph’s brothers decide to rid themselves of their rival and his rich and colorful robe. Just as they are about to murder him, Rueben suggests that they instead leave Joseph in the desert. If they slay him, they fear Joseph’s blood will cry forth from the earth, so they agree that leaving him to die would be less likely to bring punishment. Thus they abandon Joseph to a pit, a pit without water. Death would come naturally, just aided by their hand.

But on the horizon, the Ishmaelites appear. Seizing the moment, the brothers sell Joseph into slavery, watching him disappear for twenty coins of silver. Little do they know that the future will bring them together again. Joseph will find favor with the Pharaoh in Egypt and famine will bring the betraying brothers back to their rival sibling begging for food.

The mysterious ways of God are not the ways of conniving brothers. In the most dramatic twist of this epic story, the Ishmaelites rescue Joseph from sure death. Do you remember them? The descendents of Abraham’s illicit affair with Hagar? The ones who resulted from the patriarch’s lack of trust in God’s faithful promise that he and Sarah would bear a son? 

The very people who descended from Abraham’s lack of faith end up securing a future for Abraham’s descendents. The ones who were outcasts end up as essential to the promise foretold to Abraham and Sarah.

When you’re stuck in your own desert, do you look for the Ishmaelites on the horizon? Do you look to the mysterious ways of God along your pathway? 

God beyond my understanding, you are with me even when I fail to seek you. Open my soul to you so that your unexpected and unpredictable ways may bring me to your grace. Amen.