Sabbatical 2017

Sabbatical 2017
Arc de Triumph

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Canonical Reading Plan for Jan 15, Gen 43-45.

Today's readings are Gen 43-45

Judah and Reuben were the ones who tried to defend Joseph against the brothers' plans to do him harm (Gen 37:21, 26). Now they are the two who attempt to save the family and preserve Benjamin. Reuben made his plea in Gen 42:37, Judah in Gen 43:3-5. 

Even as they make wise decisions, the brothers are careful to paint themselves as innocent victims in the way they present the facts to Jacob. Their version of the narrative has subtle changes from the way it was related the first time. They present themselves as blameless. In truth, they offered up the fact that they had a younger brother - without any pressure from Joseph at all (Gen 42:12-13). They exaggerate the harshness of Joseph while portraying themselves as having no choice but to reveal the existence of Benjamin (Gen 43:6-7). The brothers are not necessarily wicked. They are typical in that they find it easy, at times, to portray themselves as far more innocent than what is true.  

Regardless of their petty squabbles and efforts to appear blameless when they’re not, we see glimmers of godliness and maturity in the brothers. Judah offers to take the blame if anything happens to Benjamin (Gen 43:9).

With Benjamin in tow and with great trepidation, the brothers return to Egypt. They are unsure of how Joseph is going to respond. Their fears are unfounded. When they unsuccessfully try to return the money to the steward, he unwittingly utters a truth that should open their eyes, saying, "Your God and the God of your father has put treasure in your sacks for you." (Gen 43:23). 

How easy it is to miss or minimize God's blessing when we are consumed with our circumstances and fear the outcome more than we trust our God! 

As they prepare to face Joseph, the brothers are acutely aware that they are culpable in their circumstances. Regardless of how innocent they have portrayed themselves to be, they still bear the guilt of what they did to their brother, Joseph. They have misrepresented their dilemma to their father and placed their younger brother in jeopardy as well. 

Now, the entire clan finds themselves at the mercy of this unusual but seemingly benevolent and powerful ruler. Nothing seems to go the way they thought it might go. They and their families will die without the food. So, they continue to move forward. But, each encounter with this “Egyptian” seems to worsen the situation. They need grace and protection. They don’t know if they’re going to receive either. It seems they trust God but may be fearful of what He is going to do in their situation. So they, like many of us, try to hedge their bets by repeatedly proclaiming their innocence when the truth reveals otherwise.

Their arrival goes well. But Joseph tests his brothers, this time setting up Benjamin as a thief. When they are apprehended and Benjamin is threatened, Judah, although innocent, offers to take the punishment in his place (Gen 44:33). In Judah's willingness to stand as a substitute for his brother there is the faint echo of another innocent that rises from the Tribe of Judah, One who will one day stand in the place of sinners and receive their punishment on the cross.  

Even when Joseph reveals who he is to his brothers, their reaction is dismay, not rejoicing (Gen 45:3). They fear what they have rightfully earned from their brother, reprisal. Instead, they receive grace along with Joseph's testimony that God was in the middle of everything that happened (Gen 45:5-8). 

God’s sovereignty has been the underlying theme of the entire story arc. Joseph has been repeatedly delivered and blessed. He has remained faithful to his God in extremely difficult situations and in his successes.  As God has been blessing Joseph, He has also been paving the way for the rest of the brothers and their families to receive blessings in Egypt.

The brothers are redeemed, the family is restored, and prospers with the promise of new homes in Egypt. But, keep in mind that they are still human beings and still in need of refinement. Ominously, before they leave on their long journey back to gather their families and father, Joseph admonishes them with, “Do not quarrel along the way.”

At this point, Egypt looks amazingly attractive to people who have been living in a land with no food. The riches with which they are being showered can seem like the answer to all their problems. Furthermore, they still carry the promise of God that they will become a "great nation". All of this will come into play as the narrative develops. 

As we will see, God is bringing them into Egypt, not as a reward for being good and godly people, but to show them that there is still much work to be done in their hearts and lives. They will enter Egypt with all the earthly things they could ever want or need. God wants them to have heavenly things. Those are not nearly so easy to come by. While the brothers may find it easy to believe they are about to arrive, their journey is far from over. 

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