Pastor’s Blog: The Power of the Lie

“31 Then they got Joseph’s robe, slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood. 32 They took the ornate robe back to their father and said, “We found this. Examine it to see whether it is your son’s robe” (Genesis 37:31-32).

Jacob, whom God had renamed Israel, had twelve sons by his two wives, Leah and Rachel, and their two maidservants, Bilhah and Zilpah. As the story goes, Jacob loved Rachel but was outfoxed by her father, Uncle Laban, who, on the wedding night, gave Jacob his older daughter, Leah, instead. Jacob had to agree to work for his uncle for seven more years to get the wife he wanted. Despite Leah being the unloved wife, she still bore Jacob six sons and one daughter. Bilhah and Zilpah each bore two sons. The infertile, beloved wife Rachel finally gave Jacob his favorite son, Joseph, and his youngest son, Benjamin. Rachel died giving birth to Benjamin.

Once our first parents had rebelled against God and lost Paradise, God’s good creation went to hell rapidly. The first instance of sibling rivalry between Cain and Abel turned murderous. In this last section of Genesis, Joseph’s older brothers despise him enough to want him dead, but they can’t pull it off. They sell Joseph into slavery, take the coat of many colors that their father had given to his favorite son, dip it in animal’s blood, and then send it to Dad to let him draw his own conclusions. Joseph’s bragging had hardened his brother’s hearts against him. Nevertheless, God had chosen Joseph for great things, and, at the end of the story, Joseph’s leadership has blessed the world. He was reconciled to his brothers.

Now, we see repeatedly in the Old Testament how polygamy creates such havoc. It is not part of God’s original design for humanity. Among the most logical of consequences is that husbands and wives have gamey relationships, which, then, spill over into the relationships between the various siblings and their mothers. In the case of Jacob, his wives, and concubines, the resulting tribes are plagued by rivalries.

In many ways, the Joseph narrative is analogous to the American power structure as comprised by career politicians and bureaucrats, big business, big media, big tech, big academia, and big celebrities. Like Jacob’s dysfunctional family, these powerful tribal insiders may feud among themselves questing for more power and attention, but the one thing that unites them is their hatred of Joseph. The coat of many colors, the symbol of Joseph’s favor, is as recognizable as the White House, Air Force One, and the limo knowns as “The Beast.”  We hear: “Why should Joseph be the one with the coat? Why should he be the chosen when he hasn’t paid his dues as an insider? Listen to his bragging. How can we get rid of him and get back to doing what we do best – fighting over who is more powerful and getting our perks?”

Jacob chose Joseph, because God chose Joseph to be the means by which God blessed the world. Was Joseph obnoxious? Yes. Did he milk the enmity with his brothers? No doubt. But did Joseph have the requisite leadership gifts needed? The outcome of Joseph’s stewardship in Egypt is the climax of the book of Genesis. Did Joseph have to suffer the logical consequences of some of his worst excesses along the way? Yes, and what Joseph learned from his failures helped to prepare him for his time in office.

There is tremendous power in the lie. It led to the corruption of God’s good creation and cost our first parents and us Paradise in this life. When the ten older brothers collude against Joseph, they are united in the big lie. They dip Joseph’s coat in blood and, then, send it to Jacob asking him to declare that Joseph is no more. Then, without any further thought about Joseph, they get back to what they do best – to act as they always do, to play the roles they always play, and to scheme for more power.

Drawing this analogy is confusing because there is an election underway between Donald and Joseph. “The Donald,” as he used to be called in younger days, is Joseph in this analogy. His opponent, Joe, is the consummate political insider, whom all the tribes are content to endorse because he is one of them. He is no threat to their power structure. Indeed Joe, with his failing powers, seems to be the perfect caretaker, while others bite and scratch for more power. The thought that Donald could have four more years in office terrifies them all, because he is uncontrollable and does not play by insider “rules.”

The American electorate is Jacob. Whom will we chose? Will we choose someone with obvious flaws yet who has delivered on his promises?  Or, will we choose the same old, same old, because we have grown used to being lied to by the power insiders? Do not the ten brothers expect us to believe them, because, after all, they keep telling us the same story? There is such power in the lie. Those in power count on it.

St Matthew's Pastor Sam Zumwalt

szumwalt

The Rev. Dr. Samuel Zumwalt has worked in churches for 44 years and in May 2020 celebrated the 39th anniversary of his ordination to the holy ministry. He is a member of the Society of the Holy Trinity (www.societyholytrinity.org). In 2004, Pr. Zumwalt moved with his family to Wilmington from Texas, where he served for 23 years as pastor of small, midsize, and large congregations.