Friday, January 20, 2012

Blogging the Bible: Rise to power and the restoration of a family

As the Blog through the bible experience continues, here are some thoughts on Genesis 41-45. This is catch up. I should be caught up tomorrow.

Genesis 41 is a turning point. Joseph's life changes in an instant. One day, he’s a forgotten man, languishing in prison, the next day; God is calling him to great power. But here’s the thing. This happens, not because of his inherent greatness, but because the Lord was with him. The story is famous. Pharaoh has a dream, and he knows it’s important. He knows that he’s being told something about the future. But what? No one could give him the answer. Enter the Cupbearer from the last story, he steps up, and remembers Joseph, and tells Pharaoh about Joseph.

Notice how Joseph acts. When presented with the opportunity to stand before Pharaoh, what does he say? I’m the man. No. "It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer." Then he goes on to tell the meaning. There will be seven good years, and then seven years of famine. The Pharaoh should act wisely and prepare for this. 

Notice how God draws Pharaoh to Joseph. When Joseph presents the idea to prepare, Pharaoh thinks his plan is great, and says, "Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?" "Since God has shown you all this, there is none as discerning and wise as you are. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order them as you command. Only as regards the throne will I be greater than you." God primes this pump. Pharaoh sees the Spirit of God in him, and knows, “he’s the one that should lead us forward”.

Notice finally, how the chapter ends. Everyone is coming to Egypt. So will his family.

 Genesis 42 tells the story from the family’s side now. The perspective flips. In Canaan, they are starving, and Jacob learned that there was grain for sale in Egypt, so he sends them to Egypt. What choice does he have?  There the brothers meet Joseph. But they do not know it. All expect Benjamin.

Notice several things here. First, do you get the sense that Jacob doesn’t trust his sons. Notice that he doesn’t send Benjamin “for he feared that harm might happen to him”. I’m just speculating, but I think dad had a sense that his sons were not innocent of Joseph’s blood.
Second, Notice that the prophetic dreams start to come to fruition when the brothers come before Joseph. The dream was that the sun, moon, stars, the wheat sheaves, they would bow before him. Now, this begins to happen.

Notice that Joseph doesn’t just welcome them as beloved family. He makes them sweat. And he sets it up so that they have to face their guilt square on. He goes so far as to keep Simeon as a hostage. But then, at the same time, he shows them grace, by putting their money back in their bags. Which threw them for a loop.

Finally, notice that Jacob is still playing favorites. His father and mother played favorites, and so does he. He loves Benjamin over all the others now, and values his life so much that it would kill him to lose Benjamin.

Genesis 43 maintains the tension as they move forward to resolution. What will happen? Will Joseph forgive his brothers? You enter the chapter, feeling the tension. What will happen? They have to return, it’s the only place to get grain, and they know that something odd happened with their money, now, they don’t know what to do. Do they dare go back? But they have to. You can feel the tension. Judah steps up and offers to bear the blame if he doesn’t come back. Unlike before, when he coldly decides to sell his brother, now, he pledges to bear the blame if his brother is harmed. Here, you sense that he is beginning to change. Did the events with Tamar show him the wickedness of his heart? Eventually, Jacob relents, and they go to Egypt with Benjamin. Here, the story continues to be strange. This great ruler takes them to his home, which scares them, and then asks about their father, and singles out Benjamin, and then throws a feast for them, and their seated in order of their age. It must have been harrowing.

Notice that in all this, Joseph is preparing things for the revelation of good news. They do not need to fear for how they will survive any longer. Their salvation is near. But, he’s got one more step left in the dance.

Genesis 44 brings the unveiling. Joseph has the steward of his house fill his brothers sacks with as much food as they can carry, and put their money in the mouth of his sack, as wells as his cup, which is put in Benjamin’s sack. Then, when the men were sent away, he sends his steward after them and ask then “Why have you repaid evil for good?  Is it not from this that my lord drinks, and by this that he practices divination? You have done evil in doing this”. They cry innocent, but they don’t know what to say when the money and the cup are found. Here, the brothers are finally brought face to face with their sin, and they confess that they know they are guilty before God, and Judah begs to be able to take Benjamin home, knowing what it will mean if he doesn’t come back.

Notice the change in him. It’s complete. From caring about his own pride, he now stands as an intercessor for the family, offering his life, for his brothers. Someday, his greater Son will offer his life, for his family, and for the whole world.

Genesis 45 brings the moment of truth. Joseph sees his brother’s remorse, and finally reveals himself. And tells of his rise to power.

Notice his words to his brothers. “Do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life” He sees that God has been at work through his tribulations, to save everyone else, in this, Joseph is a type, a picture of Christ, because he bore suffering, his family was saved. Along with Judah, he presents a hint, a picture, of the gospel.

The chapter goes on to tell of the joy of Pharaoh, and the provisions that he offers the family. The chapter ends with joy, as Jacob is told, “Joseph is still alive, and he is ruler over all the land of Egypt." At first he doesn’t believe it, “But when they told him all the words of Joseph, which he had said to them, and when he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to carry him, the spirit of their father Jacob revived. And Israel said, "It is enough; Joseph my son is still alive. I will go and see him before I die."

What are the lessons from these chapters? Not allot new; and yet a theme that should drill into us. God is sovereignly bringing about his plan to bless the world through Abraham’s family. In all of the family’s evil actions, and in all the pain Joseph endured, God was working to bring salvation.

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