Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Joseph Takes Their Liquid Assets In Exchange For Food - Genesis 47:15-17

And when the money was all spent in the land of Egypt and in the land of Canaan, all the Egyptians came to Joseph and said, “Give us food, for why should we die in your presence? For our money is gone.”  Then Joseph said, “Give up your livestock, and I will give you food for your livestock, since your money is gone.”  So they brought their livestock to Joseph, and Joseph gave them food in exchange for the horses and the flocks and the herds and the donkeys; and he fed them with food in exchange for all their livestock that year.

Eventually our money runs out and we are left with our possessions that money has bought or possessions that have been given to us over the course of our lives.  What does not disappear however is our innate desire to survive.  For that we need the basics of life – shelter, clothing, water, and food  -- the latter being most necessary for long-term survival.  That was the state that almost all Egyptians and Canaanites were in after they had given all their money to Pharaoh for grain in the previous year.  Now, totally dependent on Joseph, they came begging for more food, but without money.

The ever-creative Joseph, realizing their fear of dying, asks them for their most valuable liquid assets – namely their cattle and other livestock, in exchange for grain.  And the people consent, eager to live for one more year.

As I read this portion of scripture two pictures come to mind.  The first is that of an addict (be it drugs or be it gambling or any other addiction you can name).  First the addict spends an ever-increasing amount of his/her income or wealth on their addiction.  Then things get so bad that all their money is spent on the addictive habit.  Finally, he/she is forced to give up their car, or their house, maybe even to ‘sell the whole family farm’.  I am not suggesting the people in our story here, the Egyptians and the Canaanites, were addicts.  Not at all – they simply needed to survive.  But the felt despair and the limited options one can take are the same when driven by either the need to survive or a terrible addiction.

The second picture I see is that of many a person today who is overcome with poverty or the inability to provide for his or her family.  This may be due to personal circumstances or to a great extent it may be due to the economy we live in where unemployment is as high as it is.  What can these verses possibly say to an individual in those circumstances?

Life is indeed most challenging at times.  And there are times we do need to take some drastic “giving-up-certain-things” type of action in order to survive or for the sake of our children and other family members.  But we must realize that we cannot do it alone.  We must realize that we need to put ourselves in the hands of God – not for what He can do for us right now – but for Who He is.  We must first yield totally to Him in all aspects of our life and then, living uprightly, we can seek the sound wisdom He has stored up for us as promised much further down the road in scripture, in Proverbs 2:7.  Charles Stanley describes living uprightly as obeying God and following through and doing what God commands of us.  If that is your situation today, I pray that you will have that willingness and deep desire to get through your difficult times, with God.

Today would also be a good time to consider whether we too are in any sort of similar circumstances to that of the people who gave Joseph their livestock.  Are we living in a state of addiction or fear or despair to the point where we would give up, perhaps in our case, unnecessarily something that we should not?  If so, may I suggest that there are options we have today.  There are alternatives that we can get help with.  There is no need to do what we know to be wrong.  Like the young unwed pregnant mother who, out of despair, sees no way out but to have an abortion, we must realize there are options.  There are people willing to help us do the right thing.  We need to seek them out and receive their help.

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