Strange interlude: captivity

Dancing in the Kingdom – Table of Contents

Part 1 – Shadows of the Kingdom, Chapter 6 – A Nation Emerges

Process is important

[Bible references: Genesis 15:12-21; Exodus 1:1-22]

After Joseph and the Pharaoh who knew him died, the growing nation of Israel became enslaved in the land of Egypt just as it had been foretold to Abraham. There are various questions that surrounded the captivity of Israel in Egypt:

  • When there was a drought, why didn’t Yahweh provide for the Israelites in Canaan instead of having them go to Egypt?
  • If they needed to be in Egypt, why did they need to be enslaved instead of just living there as guests?

We know that Yahweh told Abraham that a great nation would come from him and that they would be given the land of Canaan to live in. But why the side-trip into Egypt and why the slavery? The only reason given to Abraham was that “the sin of the Amorites was not yet reached its full measure.” 

The reason given to Abraham for being in Egypt follows a general pattern. Although God occasionally supernaturally intervenes in the course of events, it seems that God most often allows natural, normal processes to take place, whether they be physical, psychological, sociological etc. We see that process in living things – plants, and animals – as they grow through specific physical processes[1]. Regarding, the great flood in Noah’s time, that only occurred after evil gradually, through normal psychological and sociological processes, eventually reached a particular threshold.

[1] Natural, physical processes are so well fixed and so well understood that they have become known as scientific laws.


Joseph’s discipline involved finding God in the midst of difficult circumstances and discovering how God could use him there. Are there any difficult circumstances you struggle with? Have you found God at work in your life in those circumstances?


Read Genesis 15:12-21; Exodus 1:1-22. We often don’t know the reasons for the difficult circumstances in life. How might Abram’s dream explain why God originally provided hospitality and refuge in Egypt but then allowed Israel to be enslaved?

The Impossible Story

The Impossible Dance – Table of Contents

The Impossible Dance – Chapter 1 – Mystery and Confusion

A few thousand years ago, someone began writing a story, a different story than the others in circulation at the time. Those other stories were about gods who, except for being immortal, acted just like the humans with all their faults and shortcomings. And those stories headed nowhere. Nothing got better. But this new story was not about many gods but one God. This new story explained that even though things were originally good, there is a mess now, but there is a plan to make it better.

Intriguingly, although this story was begun by one human author, the story would continue to be written by many other human authors, different authors who spoke different languages and who lived at different times over the course of 1500 years. What held it all together was the divine author whose Spirit was breathed into each human author. What began as a set of writings by one human author, eventually became a book, a literary masterpiece with common themes, but also with complex literary devices, inter-textual references, poetry and songs, and different kinds of narratives about events before the writers lived, or about events witnessed by the different writers, or prophetic narratives about God’s judgments and His plans in either the immediate or far-off future.

This long, complex story told in these many texts revealed a God who has remained faithful despite our distracted and discontented ways.  These texts were compiled into the book we now call the Bible, divided into sections we call the Old Testament and New Testament. Sadly, for many people, the Old and New Testaments of the Bible can seem disconnected. Some have even proposed that the God described in the Old Testament portion is different from the God in the New Testament. The apparent disconnection is partly due to the issue of the cultural barriers between us and the Bible, particularly, the Old Testament.

Unfortunately, there is a further disconnect we also need to address.  Between us and the biblical writings is the long and messy history of the Church. The Church seems very divided on how to interpret those writings and how to live into them. It is downright confusing to sort out all the various interpretations and practices that seem to contradict one another.

Another area of tension for many is what is perceived to be a conflict between science and theology. In years past, however, the issue was not about conflict but about which discipline rules over or undergirds all the other disciplines. These ideas were expressed in ways such as “theology is the queen of all sciences,” “math is the queen of all sciences,” “philosophy is the queen of all sciences,” “philosophy is the handmaid of all sciences.” Regardless of whether we seek truth through science and/or theology, God is the author of both Creation and the Bible, God speaks to us both through both books. Theology’s main goal is to understand spiritual reality and science’s main goal is to understand physical reality, but both fields can inform the other about the nature of God.