Friday, January 07, 2011

Jacob Sends His Sons To Egypt - Genesis 42:1-4

Now Jacob saw that there was grain in Egypt, and Jacob said to his sons, “Why are you staring at one another?”  And he said, “Behold, I have heard that there is grain in Egypt; go down there and buy some for us from that place, so that we may live and not die.”  Then ten brothers of Joseph went down to buy grain from Egypt.  But Jacob did not send Joesph’s brother Benjamin with his brothers, for he said, “I am afraid that harm may befall him.”

The story now shifts back to the household of Jacob, Joseph’s father.  They are suffering from the years of famine over the earth.  And they too have heard about the grain available in Egypt.  Jacob realizes his family needs to avail themselves of some of that grain in order to survive.  So he raises the topic with his sons.

It appears from the text that as soon as Jacob makes reference to Egypt, the brothers start to stare at each other.  A chord must have been struck.  They remembered that they had sold their brother Joseph to a traveling caravan of traders headed to Egypt.  By now they probably figured out that Joseph was sold there as a slave.  While it is also possible, since they had heard of how grain had been stored in Egypt during the years of plenty that they had also heard that someone named Joseph, and a Hebrew, was in charge of it all. That possibility however is not supported by later text regarding this account.  For now, we can understand fully why they were “staring at each other”.

Jacob as a minimum, but surely his sons as well, was fully cognizant of the possibility of death should they not get food.  For that reason, ten of them took a trip down to Egypt to buy grain for their household.  Only Benjamin, the youngest son of Jacob, and one of two (Joseph being the other one) born to him from his beloved Rachel, was not allowed to go.  Joseph in Egypt, as a result of his own two sons that were born to him, may have forgotten his father’s household, but what had happened to him was still very much in his father’s mind.  There was no way Jacob would allow Benjamin on such a trip; he could not stand the pain if anything ever happened to him.

Is there a lesson here for us?  I believe a couple.  First, it appears that often our actions of the past have a way of finding themselves back, to various degrees, into our lives.  Joseph’s brothers may well have forgotten what they had done to Joseph, or at least wished everybody else did.  Now they were being sent to Egypt and there certainly was a feeling of concern about what they may discover there.  As a minimum, the guilt they felt for what they had done had been re-awakened in their souls.

The brothers had never come clean with their actions.  Guilt is caused by sin.  Sin requires forgiveness.  Forgiveness requires repentance.  Unless we have come clean before God, repented of our wrongdoings sincerely, sought both His forgiveness and the forgiveness of those we have wronged, we will carry that guilt with us the rest of our lives.  Alternatively, we can lay it before God and His Son, Jesus, and allow Him to deal with it.  Only then will we be ready to walk through life should it ever come up again – because it will be He that ‘handles’ the situation.  Joseph’s brothers did not have that peace.

Second, I believe there’s a lesson with respect to holding on to things that we love.  No one can blame Jacob for the precaution he took not to risk Benjamin’s life in any way.  But as we follow this story through, we will see that sometimes God requires us to give up what we value most.  As a parent and now a grandparent, I can assure you that this is so much easier if we see ourselves, in some respect, as foster parents or guardians of those individuals that God has entrusted us with – be they children, grandchildren, employees, or friends.  They are His and they have been put into our lives, and sometimes into our charge, for a set period of time.  Our job is to take the best possible care of them – physically, socially, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.  Then rejoice that we have had that opportunity.  When the time comes, we must allow Him to take them back or move them on.

Both of these two lessons require a resolve on our part.  It is my prayer you have addressed both these inevitabilities in your life.

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