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The Bible and Cut Flowers

The words of the Bible can be like cut flowers. The words of Jesus, like the laws of Moses, can be selectively chosen and arranged for anyone’s temporary purposes and enjoyment. But once the words are sheared from the stem and root of the story they are telling, they begin to fade in significance like a bunch of dying flowers.

Consider, for instance, the story of Joseph as we meet him in the pages of Genesis (37–50). Let’s see what we lose if we cut the important lessons of his colorful coat and life from the bigger storyline of the Bible.

As the favored son of his father’s later years, Joseph angered his older brothers, not only by wearing that coat, but by telling them about his visions of ruling over them (Genesis 37). The brothers were so unnerved by his dreams and the attention he got from their father that they eventually sold him to Egypt-bound slave traders. By smearing his trademark coat with goat’s blood, they convinced their heartbroken father that a wild animal had killed him (37:18-34).

Far from home in Egypt, Joseph experienced a series of betrayals, imprisonments, and unlikely promotions. Ironically, his ability to interpret dreams eventually gave him favor with the Pharaoh who made Joseph second in command over all Egypt. From there he used his God-given foresight to prepare Egypt for 7 years of famine. In the process, he saved the lives of the Egyptian people—and even the brothers who had betrayed him when they came to Egypt looking for food (Genesis 39–50).

The most memorable moment happened when, in the surprise reunion with his brothers, Joseph told them that what they intended for evil, God meant for good (50:20).

Joseph’s story is an important chapter of Jewish history. It explains how the ancestors of Israel ended up in Egypt, first for refuge and eventually as slaves. His story also showcases a God who knows the future, rules over circumstance, and cares for us in ways that are far beyond our ability to understand.

In addition, countless readers of the Bible, in every generation since, have found Joseph to be an important source of personal inspiration. His self-control and wisdom in the face of sexual temptation have strengthened many. His integrity and trustworthiness during forgotten years of imprisonment has been a source of moral strength to many trapped in limiting circumstances. The integrity he showed in the service of an Egyptian Pharaoh reminds us that light does its best work in dark places.

Against all odds and in all these ways, Joseph lived a beautiful life. In spite of all of the bad that happened to him, he ended up being like a gift from the heart of God not only to his undeserving brothers but to the whole land of Egypt in their 7 years of famine.

But what does Joseph’s story say to readers who feel shamed by his moral strength and courage? What about those of us who sense that we are more like his envious older brothers than like him? Most of us, after all, know that we have not even lived up to our own expectations, let alone the God-centered honor of someone like Joseph.

Apart from what follows, the colorful life of Joseph, like the goodness of the law of Moses, fades like cut flowers with our own sense of failure (John 1:17; 2 Corinthians 3:6).

Only when a long-awaited Savior finally arrives, and not until He rises from the dead, does the rest of the story come into focus.

At this point, the storyline of the Bible comes to a triumphant climax. Every other word, from Genesis to Revelation, either leads up to or flows out of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Every other detail or supporting actor is there to help us appreciate what He did for us. At the same time, it is what our Savior suffered in our place that gives perspective to every other word of the Bible.

Because Jesus’ sacrifice helps us to understand how much God loves the whole world (John 3:16), His willingness to be crucified on a Roman cross can deepen our appreciation for what we see in the story of Joseph. Now we can better see the heart of the God who used Joseph to save the people of Egypt and to forgive his undeserving brothers. Only in the love and grace of Christ do we find fullness of meaning in God’s willingness to make Joseph and his forgiven brothers into fathers of the nation that would eventually give us not only the Bible but also the Living Word and Savior of the world.

Father in heaven, forgive us for separating words You have inspired from the stem and root of Your intent. Please help us to remember that whatever is good, true, or beautiful in Your Book, or in our world, has its root and life in Your Son.—Mart DeHaan


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10 Responses to “The Bible and Cut Flowers”

  1. BruceC says:

    Thank you for that Mart. Very well done.

    I once heard it said that the Bible must be taken in context; and that context is Jesus Christ.

    God Bless!

    BruceC
    Soli Deo Gloria!

  2. dja says:

    Yes, thank you, Mart. The Lord has truly given you the gift of writing, and He is using your writings in the lives of so many. I am very thankful to be able to come to BTA and read each new entry.

    Your comparison to cut flowers is excellent. We have a small backyard plant nursery with so many beautiful varieties of flowers. When I look out my kitchen window, and when I walk around the beds of flowers, I am overwhelmed by their beauty, and then I sometimes cut some to bring into the house. But their beauty fades quickly in the house because they have been cut from the stem and root of the plant.

    Steve, I did not post to the last blog, but please know that I continue to pray for Matthew and for you and Glenna. So delighted to hear the good news of Matt’s weight loss and increased exercise!

    Rained last night in NEPA, but the sun is shining this morning. The Lord is so good!

    ~Della

  3. cherielyn says:

    Mart,

    I find this topic to be a healing balm to my spirit. My spirit has been so troubled over some of the posts to your last couple topics. Romans 8:26 (KJV)

    You have crafted an excellent response to the posts that have seemed to be directed at separating the words from the stem and root of His Holy Word in the past week. Since the Bible IS God’s inspired Word, I do not believe that He would have allowed a major contributor to the New Testament to be included if that contributor was detracting from the glory that is due Him and making the focus himself.

    I thank God for giving you the wisdom and words to tackle this situation in such a meaningful and unoffensive way.

  4. poohpity says:

    Excellent post Mart! Thank you for the prayer that I know needs to be applied to my life.

  5. poohpity says:

    I read this almost a month ago and needed to read it again.

  6. cherielyn says:

    poohpity,

    You read this almost a month ago? Is this an old topic that I missed? It is dated today – or did Mart just repost it with a new date?

    I feel so unsettled with the recent posts of one particular individual and this topic has really helped to calm my troubled spirit.

    First of all, I am troubled mostly by the fact that I feel my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and one of his great messengers have been so maligned.

    Secondly, I fear for new Christians, or unbelievers who are searching, may be reading this and getting some very disturbing and conflicting impressions.

    I am weeping, inside, over certain of the posts.

  7. poohpity says:

    No, it comes in OBD that gets delivered to my home. I have the article for September already as well.

    I know it can be troubling but God does not need us to defend Him or His Word it can stand on it’s own but that person may need to be saved as well. Could it be that God brought that person to this site for us to minister to and receive the message of salvation.

    Hopefully new believers will see how imperfect we all can be at times and look to God instead of us. When I was a new b I wish people would have let down their guard so I knew that just because they had all those smiles that we still go through real life and are real people but our hope is not in us but in the Lord.

  8. His Sparrow says:

    I have noticed over the years, a lot of people visit this blog carrying heavy burdens, saying all kinds of things to get attention, the needed love, rest from labor and burdens.

    Their cut flowers the world gave them now dry and falling apart, or wet and rotting.

    I was one of them.

    You all gave me encouragement and prayers and pointed me to The One who created the garden!

    Not by power, not by might but by His Spirit do I have rest.

  9. Bob in Cornwall England says:

    How right Sparrow,
    It seems, like Della’s Garden that is full of flowers, we often cut off the best ones and hold them as our own until they wither and die.
    We do that with God’s word, take little bits out of the context of the Garden (Bible) and eventually the words become meaningless and die.
    Pooh is always telling us to read the bible in a year, she is absolutely correct in the fact that we need a fresh word from God every day, with fresh water (Holy Spirit) to keep it alive in us until the next day.
    God’s Mercy is new every morning so is His Word.

    I too came here with heavy burdens and bitterness towards American Christians but have found nothing but love from most here.
    I was allowed to vent my feelings, got told off by a few, ate a bit of humble pie and now understand the differences that make us all so special to God and each other.

    Bob

  10. remarutho says:

    Good Evening –

    Mart, you wrote:

    “But what does Joseph’s story say to readers who feel shamed by his moral strength and courage?…Most of us, after all, know that we have not even lived up to our own expectations, let alone the God-centered honor of someone like Joseph.”

    It is astonishing to consider how suddenly the information flow in the whole world has become a torrent – even an overwhelming wave of data. This phenomenon brings into question the self-named Biblical values we have held. It seems to me that some of our interpretation of Scripture has served to bolster and “settle” moral choices that worked then (in an earlier day) and do not serve now in view of the diversity of the worldwide Christian family.

    I am so grateful to Jesus Christ that he recapitulates the outcome of world history – and in so doing changes the outcome of my life. This evening I feel my smallness and my own inability to bear witness to my Lord Jesus. The blessed Holy Spirit must do even this for me – I cannot do it on my own.

    Thanks for this encouraging message.

    Blessings,
    Maru

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