Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Wednesday, June 6th

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Esther 3-4; Psalm 135; 2 Corinthians 7
Today's scripture focus is Genesis 43

Genesis 43 English Standard Version (ESV)

Joseph's Brothers Return to Egypt

43 Now the famine was severe in the land. And when they had eaten the grain that they had brought from Egypt, their father said to them, “Go again, buy us a little food.” But Judah said to him, “The man solemnly warned us, saying, ‘You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you.’ If you will send our brother with us, we will go down and buy you food. But if you will not send him, we will not go down, for the man said to us, ‘You shall not see my face, unless your brother is with you.’” Israel said, “Why did you treat me so badly as to tell the man that you had another brother?” They replied, “The man questioned us carefully about ourselves and our kindred, saying, ‘Is your father still alive? Do you have another brother?’ What we told him was in answer to these questions. Could we in any way know that he would say, ‘Bring your brother down’?” And Judah said to Israel his father, “Send the boy with me, and we will arise and go, that we may live and not die, both we and you and also our little ones. I will be a pledge of his safety. From my hand you shall require him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame forever. 10 If we had not delayed, we would now have returned twice.”
11 Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be so, then do this: take some of the choice fruits of the land in your bags, and carry a present down to the man, a little balm and a little honey, gum, myrrh, pistachio nuts, and almonds. 12 Take double the money with you. Carry back with you the money that was returned in the mouth of your sacks. Perhaps it was an oversight. 13 Take also your brother, and arise, go again to the man. 14 May God Almighty grant you mercy before the man, and may he send back your other brother and Benjamin. And as for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.”
15 So the men took this present, and they took double the money with them, and Benjamin. They arose and went down to Egypt and stood before Joseph.
16 When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the steward of his house, “Bring the men into the house, and slaughter an animal and make ready, for the men are to dine with me at noon.” 17 The man did as Joseph told him and brought the men to Joseph's house.18 And the men were afraid because they were brought to Joseph's house, and they said, “It is because of the money, which was replaced in our sacks the first time, that we are brought in, so that he may assault us and fall upon us to make us servants and seize our donkeys.”19 So they went up to the steward of Joseph's house and spoke with him at the door of the house, 20 and said, “Oh, my lord, we came down the first time to buy food. 21 And when we came to the lodging place we opened our sacks, and there was each man's money in the mouth of his sack, our money in full weight. So we have brought it again with us, 22 and we have brought other money down with us to buy food. We do not know who put our money in our sacks.” 23 He replied, “Peace to you, do not be afraid. Your God and the God of your father has put treasure in your sacks for you. I received your money.” Then he brought Simeon out to them. 24 And when the man had brought the men into Joseph's house andgiven them water, and they had washed their feet, and when he had given their donkeys fodder, 25 they prepared the present for Joseph's coming at noon, for they heard that they should eat bread there.
26 When Joseph came home, they brought into the house to him the present that they had with them and bowed down to him to the ground. 27 And he inquired about their welfare and said, “Is your father well, the old man of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?” 28 They said, “Your servant our father is well; he is still alive.” And they bowed their heads and prostrated themselves. 29 And he lifted up his eyes and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother's son, and said, “Is this your youngest brother, of whom you spoke to me? God be gracious to you, my son!” 30 Then Joseph hurried out, for his compassion grew warm for his brother, and he sought a place to weep. And he entered his chamber and wept there. 31 Then he washed his face and came out. And controlling himself he said, “Serve the food.” 32 They served him by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves, because the Egyptians could not eat with the Hebrews, for that is an abomination to the Egyptians. 33 And they sat before him, the firstborn according to his birthright and the youngest according to his youth. And the men looked at one another in amazement. 34 Portions were taken to them from Joseph's table, but Benjamin's portion was five times as much as any of theirs. And they drank and were merry with him.
Accompanying sermon by Bob Deffinbaugh: The Fears of Jacob and the Tears of Joseph

What a difference in faith between several of the different characters in our passage today.

Jacob displays a complete lack of faith, not to mention bad leadership skills.  First, he tried to delay taking any type of action until the situation had reached a crisis peak that could no longer be ignored.  Then he tried to play it down, telling his sons to just go buy a little food, as though that would somehow sway Joseph into forgetting his command to bring back Benjamin. When Judah refuted this plea by reminding his father of what the man had demanded, Jacob tried to blame it on them, saying it was there fault for telling the Egyptian personal details about their lives. And then, when they explained that they had only given him the information due to very direct questioning, Jacob basically tells them that they should have done what he would have, and lied about it!  Finally, Judah convinces Jacob that they really have no other choice, and Jacob finally, reluctantly, agrees to let Benjamin go to Egypt.  Not Jacob's finest hour.

So, he sends them on their way with double the money for the grain and gifts in hand, though he does so with a fatalistic attitude, not a faithful one.

It turns out that all their fears were unfounded.  Joseph's part in this whole drama is not vengeful.

Deffinbaugh: We might be inclined to view Joseph as engineering this plot in order to vent some of his hostilities toward his brothers. Was this not a cruel and inhuman test? The answer is a resounding “No!” as evidenced by the genuine tears of love and compassion he shed, unknown to his brothers, in chapter 43. Why did Moses inform us of the emotional feelings of Joseph (42:23-24, 43:30) if they were not known to his brothers? Simply because he intended for us to understand Joseph’s motivation for his actions. Every test and every hardship which Joseph imposed upon his brothers was an act of genuine love.

An important thing to note is that Joseph didn't allow his emotions to cloud his decision making.  Emotions are God-given, but we need to filter our emotions through truth found in His Word.  We need to act out of love - biblical love, agape love.  And sometimes this means acting contrary to our emotions.

We also see a lesson in the gospel in our passage:
Joseph’s brothers provide us with an excellent illustration of salvation. In their current spiritual state they faced Joseph with the greatest fear. They perceived their only “salvation” to be in their “works” of returning the money they found in their sacks and in the pistachio nuts and other presents they brought from Canaan. The first was refused by the steward, and the second was ignored by Joseph. It was not their works that endeared these brothers to Joseph; it was their relationship to him. That is what they did not yet realize.

In the same way today sinful men dread the thought of standing before a righteous and holy God. The future must be faced with great fear. Frantically men and women seek to gain God’s favor and acceptance by their “pistachio nuts” of good works. Such things as trying to live by the Golden Rule or the Sermon on the Mount, joining the church, and being baptized, are unacceptable to God as a basis for salvation. What saves a man or a woman is a relationship with Him through Jesus Christ.

This passage also reminds us that....
the only reason the saints persevere is because God perseveres to bring about the accomplishment of what He has promised. Humanly speaking, if Jacob had gotten his way (by keeping Benjamin home with him, where it was “safe”), the nation would never have gone to Egypt where it was spared from physical famine and spiritual disaster (e.g., Genesis 38). Jacob was in no way furthering God’s purposes; he was fighting them. God saved the nation in spite of him. How encouraging it is to know that our ultimate destiny is in His hands, not ours.

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Genesis 44
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Esther 5-6, Psalm 136, 2 Corinthians 8

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