Monday, March 07, 2011

The Ideal Steward Responds - Genesis 43:23-25

And he said, “Be at ease, do not be afraid.  Your God and the God of your father has given you treasure in your sacks; I had your money.”  Then he brought Simeon out to them.  Then the man brought the men into Joseph’s house and gave them water, and they washed their feet; and he gave their donkeys fodder.  So they prepared the present for Joseph’s coming at noon; for they had heard that they were to eat a meal there.

In this short segment of the 43rd chapter of Genesis, we are presented with a very wise house steward that not only knows his master well, but who has gained his master’s trust and in turn been given considerable authority.

Let’s focus first on his wisdom.  Upon hearing the story of Jacob’s sons, he senses their angst and immediately tells them to “be at ease”.  He assures them that they do not need to be afraid at all.  And he credits the Israelites’ God for their good fortune.  Does not this whole scene remind us of other times in the Bible when God has sent angels to tell someone the same thing?  I think God still does that today.  Do not misunderstand me.  I am not for a moment suggesting that Joseph’s house steward was an angel in disguise.  He was not.  I am simply making a comparison to times when God does use angels to comfort us.  It is interesting, however, that this Egyptian knew about “your God” and “the God of your father” and His power as well as His involvement in the lives of His people.  It is as if the steward was saying, “Look, your God has arranged for all this, relax.  He’s even arranged for you to talk with me and now to eat at my master’s house.”  

A fearful individual accepts the ‘words’ of an angel more readily when accompanied by signs of the angel’s ‘authoritative action’.  This house steward had authority.  First of all, he had known about the money that was put back in the brothers’ sacks by Joseph’s men.  In fact, the Scripture says he told them that he had received their money (one Bible version suggests the phrase “your money had come to me”) so they were not to worry, they would not be accused of stealing.  Next, as more evidence of his authority, whether pre-arranged with Joseph or not we do not know, the house steward brings the imprisoned Simeon out to join his brothers.

Not only is this steward wise and understanding, not only does he have the authority as discussed earlier, but now we see he is also a ‘servant’ that carries out his duties well.  He escorts all eleven of the men into his master’s house.  He gives them water, provisions to wash their feet, and he personally feeds their donkeys.  He provided them with all the hospitality needed as befit the house for which he worked.  And more importantly, he did all he needed to prepare his master’s visitors for the arrival of his master at noon.

The last portion of this segment tells us the brothers prepared ‘the present’ for Joseph’s coming.  Was this the present their father had ‘sent’ or had that already been given to Joseph earlier?  We don’t know.  We do know that this present now was for “Joseph’s coming”.  Perhaps the wise house steward had suggested it to help ensure his master’s favor on them.

As an aside, I find it interesting that just as the Pharaoh had dealt with Joseph when he recognized his talents, so Joseph must have dealt with this house steward.  Here is an excellent example of modeling the good we have seen God work in our lives.

All this to say that here is an awesome picture of a trusted servant.  We should not lose sight of it.  Perhaps there is something we need to learn here with respect to how we deal with others in distress.  Are we wise towards the situation?  Do we understand their plight and need?  Can we act and recommend with the authority – from God, from the Scriptures?  And are we willing to do all we have to do ourselves to make the situation better and to prepare individuals for what lies ahead?  Whoever would have thought that an Egyptian house steward could teach us so much about being a Christian?

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