Friday, July 29, 2011

Joseph Takes Care of His Family’s Traveling Needs - Genesis 45:21-24

Then the sons of Israel did so; and Joseph gave them wagons according to the command of Pharaoh, and gave them provisions for the journey.  To each of them he gave changes of garments, but to Benjamin he gave three hundred pieces of silver and five changes of garments.  To his father he sent as follows: ten donkeys loaded with the best things of Egypt, and ten female donkeys loaded with grain and bread and sustenance for his father on the journey.  So he sent his brothers away, and as they departed, he said to them, “Do not quarrel on the journey.”
 
The brothers did as they were ordered.  They had no choice but it was also an offer they could not refuse.  Not only were they provided with vehicles upon which to make the journey (and one assumes donkeys or animals of some sort were provided to pull the wagons), but they were also provided with all the necessary provisions to make the journey.  Joseph gave each of them new garments to wear, possibly because they needed them and their own clothes had been the worse for wear.

Benjamin of course got special treatment from Joseph.  He got five new garments as well as three hundred pieces of silver.  His love for his full-brother continues to be obvious.  And his love to his father, Jacob, is also emphasized as he sends him ten donkeys loaded with some of the best Egyptian products, plus ten female donkeys (which one assumes are for growing his own stock of burden beasts).  Finally, the female donkeys at least are loaded with food for the journey back to Egypt.

And knowing his brothers well, he gives them a word of advice for their journey – “don’t fight”.  I wonder what Joseph thought they might have fought over.  Was it ‘how to approach dad?’ or ‘why should Benjamin get more than us?’ or ‘does dad really need all this and why can’t we have some?’  We do not know the answer to this question of why warn them, but we know he was led to warn them.

What is the message for us from these four verses that simply seem to be sharing some facts?  Perhaps it is to reflect on how, when we want people to take a certain course of action, we need to facilitate the process for them.  We cannot expect them to do everything.  We need to help – in whatever way is necessary that may be beyond their own means at this time.  We need to anticipate things on their behalf.  We need to accept our role in their lives, as God lays on our hearts what we might do for them.

But if we are to treat some differently than others, as Joseph treated Benjamin, then we are to make sure that in so doing the reason is clear and valid and acceptable to all.  That way we avoid causing dissention among those we are trying to win over to our idea.

As those trying to give advice or help to others, we need to be ready to speak whatever God lays on our hearts.  Joseph told them forthright, “don’t quarrel”.  In a way, he was ‘warning’ them.  Be ready to warn others appropriately of the pitfalls they may fall into – both in pursuing a course of action here today, but also with regard to eternity.  We need to be honest with people at all times, but in a way that our love remains most visible and acceptable to them.

There is also something here for those of us on the ‘receiving’ end of the advice or the assistance.  If we were expecting nothing or little from a situation (e.g. Joseph’s brothers just wanted to buy grain and return to Canaan) and all of a sudden we get something (e.g. wagons, garments, an offer of protection during the rest of the famine and beyond, etc.), let us not get bent out of shape when others get more (e.g. Benjamin received more gifts than the brothers).  Instead, we should rejoice in the windfall of others.  That’s a tough lesson to learn and so Jesus tries to teach it to us again in one of His parables in the New Testament.  Maybe we could learn it now.


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