So Temporary

Painting of an old woman reading the Bible by a fireplace
The daily lectionary for January 25 includes Genesis 50:1-Exodus 2:10 & Matthew 16:13-17:9

In this morning’s reading, in Genesis 50:11 the Canaanites rename the place of the Egyptians’ mourning for Jacob “Abel-mitzraim,” “because it was a place of deep mourning for the Egyptians.” The mitzraim part refers to the Egyptians, so the Abel part has to be mourning, which got me thinking about Abel in Genesis 4 – this would make sense of his name, eh? But, no – because the Abel in Genesis 4 is Havel or Hevel, different spelling, and is the word that in Ecclesiastes 1 is translated “vanity” – something like “vanishing breath.” Which also fits. Noticed that in Genesis 4, Eve gives a reason for naming Cain Cain, but not for naming Abel Abel. My English professor might have said, “Foreshadowing.”

Also in Genesis 50, Joseph is supposed to be reassuring his brothers in v19, but he has to throw in “Am I in the place of God?” which, if I were in their position, I would not find altogether reassuring, with its hint of “hey, don’t worry about me, it’s God you’ve got to worry about.”

So then, maybe coincidentally, Matthew 16:13-23 seems to say quite clearly “what you got from God is reliable, but what you’re getting from your human point of view is not.” This bothers me, though, because it seems to me we often need to be and are in fact able to trust things we know from a human point of view, so this can’t be the whole story.

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