How are we supposed to assess the behaviour of characters in OT narratives? It’s not always easy, but the preacher needs to made a judgment. Here’s the first of two test cases which I’ve come across recently in teaching the Joseph narrative to Cornhill students. It’s Joseph in Genesis 37. Is he presented to us (as one commentator says, and as it’s tempting for the preacher to present him) as a spiteful tell-tale (v.2), a spoiled brat (v.3) and a braggart (vs.5-11)? It’s easy to take it that way. If we do, then in preaching ch.37 we’ll probably portray Joseph as someone who partly gets what’s coming to him, although without excusing what his brothers do to him. The principle I want to bring forward here is this: we need to look for and accept the judgments that the text itself gives us on people and their behaviour, rather than imposing our gut-reaction on the text. Most people reading ch.37 have a gut-reaction against Joseph - especially if they had a spoilt younger brother of their own! But where is the evidence in the text itself that God intends us to see Joseph’s actions here negatively? Let’s have a look: • Verse 2. It’s possible that the Hebrew behind the ‘bad report’ he brings about his brothers indicates that he’d invented a lie about them; the commentators debate this. • Verse 3. Jacob is certainly unwise in favouring Joseph over the other sons; but we’re not told clearly that Joseph himself was spoilt by that. • Verses 5-11. Is it clear from the text that Joseph should not have told his brothers and father about his dreams? I don’t think so. In fact v.11 hints that it was good for them to know, and Jacob scores more highly than his other sons in taking seriously that this might be revelation from God. Conclusion: the evidence isn’t entirely one way. But I reckon that it is not clearly leading us to see Joseph’s behaviour as basically reprehensible. One further bit of evidence clinches this for me, this time from the context. As soon as we encounter Joseph in ch.39, he is a model of godly self-control and trust in the Lord. This is in striking contrast to the episode when his father was effectively kicked out of town by his own family. Jacob had to (literally) wrestle with God and be humbled in order to be knocked into spiritual shape. Joseph, by contrast, seems to arrive in Egypt as basically the finished article. (We might suppose that Joseph was bad in ch.37 and that the Lord sanctified him in the Midianite caravans, but that would be pure speculation.) What does difference all this make for the preacher? A very big one. If my take is right, then as a whole Genesis ch.37 presents Joseph as an innocent sufferer sold into slavery by his own jealous brothers. Now that is a pattern that Christ gloriously fulfils for us.
For the past few years, a small army of volunteers have hosted EMA guests for the two or three nights of the conference. There a number of people for whom the cost of accommodation in London would hinder their attendance and these generous offers of somewhere to stay make all the difference. This year's EMA runs from 22-24th June. So, if you live in London and are able to help, please let us know at email@example.com . And if you’re ministering in a London church, could you ask folk in the church whether they might be able to accommodate anybody? Thank you in advance for your generosity and help. PS: We are also looking for hosts for the Cornhill Summer School which is the week after EMA (29th June- 3rd July) ; if you are able to help then, let us know about that too!
Day rate £50
3 days £110
Student day rate £25
Student 3 days £60
Monday 22nd June 2015 –
Wednesday 24th June 2015
EMA 2015: Identity Crisis - Preaching to a confused world. Speakers will include Christopher Ash, Tim Keller, Mike Raiter, Andrew Reid, Vaughan Roberts, Bruce Ware and John Wyatt. We're confused about identity. We're confused about gender and sexuality. We're confused about race. We're confused about the beginning and end of life. The 2015 EMA will focus on a biblical theology of humanity: if we can be clear about the Bible's teaching on humanity, then we can be joyfully confident in our own identity in Christ and equipped to preach to a confused world.
For those who are really looking ahead, the dates for EMA 2016 are 21st to 23rd June.
Spring Senior Ministers 2015
Monday 27th April 2015 –
Thursday 30th April 2015
With Peter Adam. Based at Hothorpe Hall, Leicestershire. Our spring conferences are all about being and staying fresh: fresh in our walk with Christ; fresh in our thinking; fresh in our preaching. We've planned the 2015 spring ministers' conferences to help us work out how our godly desire for freshness can be a practical reality in every area of Christian life and ministry. We will be joined by Peter Adam (ex-principal of Ridley College, Melbourne) and other experienced preachers to learn together how we can serve our churches, our friends, our families and our Saviour. fresh. This week is focused on those with 5+ years experience; the conference the following week is for those with less than 5 years experience. Single rooms are now fully booked, but you are welcome to indicate in the 'room share' box if you would like a single room if one becomes available.
Started in 1991, PT Cornhill exists primarily to train preachers, as well as equipping men and women to teach the Bible in other contexts, such as youth/children's work and women's ministry. Click here for more details
We're gradually adding material from our archive. EMA 1993 featured Dick Lucas, Phillip Jensen, Don Carson, David Petersen and John Lennox for a mix of inspiring teaching, challenging exhortation and encouraging reports of gospel work. (Click the title, left, for the talks)