Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Sometimes the Blessing Includes the Transition Stage - Genesis 45:16-20

Now, when the news was heard in Pharaoh’s house that Joseph’s brothers had come, it pleased Pharaoh and his servants.  Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Say to your brothers, ‘Do this: load your beasts and go to the land of Canaan, and take your father and your households and come to me, and I will give you the best of the land of Egypt and you will eat the fat of the land.’  Now you are ordered, ‘Do this: take wagons from the land of Egypt for your little ones and for your wives, and bring your father and come.  Do not concern yourselves with your goods, for the best of all the land of Egypt is yours.’”

What a wonderful feeling it is to have made a decision on your own and then to have your boss’s words fully support the situation.  That’s what happened to Joseph.  His boss Pharaoh was pleased that his family had come to Egypt.  The servants in Pharaoh’s house were also delighted.  That says a lot about Joseph and his relationships with others.  Have you ever had to visit a relative at work and he/she introduces you to their boss?  Your instinct tells you whether or not the boss or their co-workers for that matter are really glad to meet you, or whether they’re just being polite and wishing your visit would be brief and everyone could get back to work.  Well, there was no doubt in the feelings of Pharaoh and many others in Egypt.  They were sincerely glad to hear of the presence in Egypt of Joseph’s brothers and I believe it was because they thought very highly of Joseph as a person and as a ruler.  What a testimony and role model for all of us.  What do our co-workers think of us?  For many of my early years, not so much any more, people who met my wife would often say to her, “I’m so glad to meet you.  I have so much respect for you and your ability to live with this man.”  Well yes, some of them meant it as a joke, but often there was truth in their contention.  I was not the easiest person to get along with and some would still say I haven’t changed much.  Thank goodness God is still working on me.

Not only is Pharaoh glad that Joseph’s family came to Egypt, but he wants to get in the act of blessing them too.  Perhaps because of his love and appreciation for Joseph.  Pharaoh improves the offer that Joseph made to his brothers and seals it with his own words just in case Jacob thought that while Joseph wanted him there, the Pharaoh would not.  This was a very strong endorsement Pharaoh gave to Joseph along with his further instructions for his brothers.

Pharaoh told Joseph to tell the Canaanites to load their beasts, return home, and then bring their father and all their families back to Egypt.  The phrase, “Now you are ordered” at the beginning of verse 19 is translated in the New International Version (NIV) as “You (Joseph) are also directed to tell them”.  As plausible as that is, we must note that the various versions are divided on whether that phrase “Now you are ordered” is really part of the entire instructions Joseph was to give his brothers and thus directed to them, or whether it was a side ‘order’ to Joseph to tell them what follows it.  Both are possibilities.  I prefer to think that his Middle Eastern hospitality would kick in and in fact turn his generosity towards his future guests into an order or command.  That is, “You are ordered to take my wagons . . .”.

Recently on a trip to Greece (as close to the Middle East as one can get without being in the Middle East), my wife and I had the opportunity to witness this kind of fervor in expressing hospitality.  A lady that was entertaining us in her home insisted that we were ‘too warm’ and my wife answered that she was ‘just fine’.  The lady then proceeded to physically attempt to take my wife’s sweater off.  Thankfully her brother talked some sense into her and we were able to continue the visit, albeit a little shaken up.  The lady meant well but we felt she was taking away our freedom of choice.  At other times, I have heard my dad give such “orders” to those that were coming to visit – orders about extending their stay and allowing our family to take them places, etc.  All this he did because he wanted them to have a good time in our city.  I find myself often doing the same thing.  As I write today we are expecting good friends from the southern states to visit us.  They offered to stay in a hotel and not be any trouble to us.  I informed them that would be unacceptable and ‘ordered’ them to stay in our home.  They complied.

Similarly Pharaoh, either directly or indirectly, ‘orders’ the brothers to take his wagons and use them to bring their families back to Egypt.  He furthermore wants them to not worry about or bother with their belongings – their new host and country would take care of everything.  That directive of Pharaoh’s reminds me of how refugees or orphans are to leave their homeland and entrust themselves to their new sponsors.  Or, another example would be a runaway bride that is swooped up by a handsome prince or a millionaire who wants to marry her and asks her to elope with him.  Joseph and Pharaoh were offering Jacob’s family not so much a new start as a promise of rescue and survival.

This passage ends with the phrase “the best of all the land of Egypt is yours”.  Of course, in hindsight some Israelis many years later, and even now, may not agree with the Pharaoh’s statement.  The ‘best of Egypt’ included and still includes some pretty difficult times for the Israelites as later books in the Bible and today’s politics between Egypt and Israel respectively, tell us.  That certainly is the case from a human perspective looking at what happened and what may happen in the near future.  But from God’s eternal perspective, journeying into Egypt was all part and parcel of His Plan for them.  One could study all that would have not happened for the Israelites if they had not gone to Egypt, but here we just want to confirm that God does not lead His people, even into captivity, without a good reason.  He has a purpose for us to go into the darkest part of the dark, into the deepest of valleys. He has something to teach us.  Will we learn it?

In fact, as we see in the case of Jacob and his family when we view how easy Joseph and Pharaoh made it for them to move to Egypt, we can learn that sometimes there is ‘blessings’ even in the transition from where we are to where God wants us to move.   How are you with the transitions God brings your way?

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