One of the hallmarks of Christian spirituality from its earliest days has been the daily recitation of the psalms. Lately, I’ve been reading an older translation of the psalms in a rhythm found in the Book of Common Prayer that takes me through the psalms each month in language akin to the King James Version. I’ve been impressed with their range of feeling, their re-telling of Israel’s tumultuous story, and the psalmists' persistent reliance on God’s tender mercy all found in an English slightly unfamiliar to me. And I’ve been blessed to find important phrases to carry me through difficult times in these song lyrics of old.
One such turn of phrase speaks of Joseph:
“But he had sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold to be a bond-servant; whose feet they hurt in the stocks; the iron entered into his soul;
Until the time came that his cause was known: the word of the Lord tried him”
You know the rest of the story. Joseph went from the lowest of lows to ruling over Pharaoh’s house and eventually all of Egypt. His role in Egypt, and his ability to interpret dreams would soon save his people, the descendants of Abraham, from famine and certain starvation. He would be reunited with his brothers who left him for dead in the wilderness through this turn of events.
But what interests me about Joseph is all of the stuff he had to go through before the Lord thought it was fit for him to preside over Pharaoh’s house and be entrusted with the resources of Egypt. “The word of the Lord tried him.” What did this trial look like?
He was sold into slavery. He was shackled, and “the iron entered into his soul.” All of this had to happen “until the time came that his cause was known.”
Most of us could not say we’ve been through what Joseph has, but I know many of us could say “the iron has entered our soul” through the trials, the difficulties, the wounding. Truly, the word of the Lord has tried us too.
What is it that God is doing in you, in me? We know it is deep work, difficult, and something only God can bring about. But he does this because, as St. Paul says, “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph 2:10). God wants to draw out of us the good works, the artfully crafted beauty that can only be wrought by his hands through difficulty, trial, the testing of the word of the Lord.
I hope you’ve begun to encounter this work of the Lord this lent. It is difficult work and will last a lifetime. But it is good, for through it, God is crafting his works of art - you and me.
You’re in my prayers -