Thursday, November 3, 2016

TheLifeOfJoseph : Genesis 43:16-34

"This was a time of transition as the brothers moved from fear to peace, for punishment because of the money was no longer an issue; from bondage to freedom, for Simeon had been released; and from anxiety to joy, for Benjamin was not in danger. So Joseph’s brothers ate and drank as if there were no famine in the land, and they rejoiced at the generosity of the ruler at the head table." (Wiersbe OT Commentary)

As much as I would love to include the next chapter in these verses above, I have chosen not to. First, simply because the chapter ends here and there is enough to discuss. But secondly, because this is often like life, isn't it?

We have been traveling enough with the brothers and Joseph to know that sometimes life just seems to drag on. The way this chapter is written is curious. There are details that could have very easily been left out, but it seems the writer is trying to slow everything down, not unlike the final scene of a football movie where the final catch that wins the game is slowed right down so we can embrace all the emotions attached to this final, amazing scene.

So we do slow right down, but it's almost painful. We feel the angst of the brothers. We read of the emotion of Joseph that drew him to weep. But I believe this is, legitimately, how the story needs to be shared. There is much that we can look at, up to this point in the story, that needs to be opened and magnified. Like a sore that needs the air to heal, we're right in the midst of 'bearing the wound' for all to see; the wound remains open, even at the end of the chapter. 

The brothers are bowing down to Joseph (a fulfillment of his dream - see Gen. 37:6, 7) - twice actually - and we are given a front-row seat of Joseph's reactions, especially towards Benjamin, the youngest of the brothers. There is a lot to take in in this scene. But what is intriguing to me is the elephant in the room. Everyone knows but everyone doesn't know that everyone knows. Joseph knows who these men are. They are his brothers who sold him into slavery. His brothers know that they are guilty of selling Joseph into slavery. Yet his brothers still do not know that this is Joseph in front of them, serving them this meal and helping them and their family survive the famine in the land. Everyone knows their part of the story but everyone doesn't know that everyone knows.

And so we end here. The chapter concludes with these words: So they feasted and drank freely with him (vs. 34). But freedom comes at a cost. They, while feasting on the food that is before them, must have still had a bitter taste in their mouths, though the food must have been very delicious. Ever notice that even when something is delicious, whether physically (like food) or emotionally (like passion or lust), if it has been taken or stolen or given while you have a guilty conscience, everything seems to lose its flavour?

We continue with the story of Joseph and his brothers, but need to ask a very important question here: Feasting at the table, the undeserved table, how long will it take for us to respond humbly? We see that it seems the brothers are learning their lesson from Joseph. They saw the money back in their sacks after they left the first time from Joseph's presence, and confessed to the servant at the door and received a peaceful response that clearly brought them rest. The servant's response is nothing short of glorious: Be at ease, do not be afraid. You God and the God of your father has given your treasure in your sacks; I had your money (vs. 23; note this is before Simeon came out to them).

It is not clear if this servant is a believer or just a good servant who said what his master had told them to say. But he, clearly, spoke, not only as the mouth-piece of Joseph, but breathed peace by the voice of God. Grace at its best. It is also unclear whether this servant knows the whole life-story of Joseph, but it doesn't matter. When we are brought to a place of needing to confess (which the brothers clearly have learned to do), right at the very same time we are given grace. I do not believe that one needs to happen before the other. In some miraculous way, even as we are confessing to the LORD, He is forgiving us! This is an incredible lesson of God's grace (see Luke 15:11-32).

God also deals with the elephant(s) in our rooms too. That is the next chapter. Until then, may we feast on the grace of God at his table of peace (see Psalm 23:5). 

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