Introduction: In the valleys of this sinful world, full of a spiritual fog that obscures the mountain peaks of God’s Salvation, we tend to get immersed in events down at the level of our feet, becoming like Tolkien’s character ‘Gollum’ in the ‘Fellowship of the Ring,’ “diving into deep pools; burrowing under trees and growing plants, and ceasing to look up at the hill-tops, or the leaves on the trees, or the flowers opening in the air: his head and eyes were downward.” May these Bible notes encourage us to look up and admire the large-scale beauty of God’s plan for our salvation, “setting our minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:2).
Monday: read Genesis 42:18-24. In Gen. 42:22, Reuben, the eldest, reminds his brothers that it was not just their deafness to the cries of their brother Joseph which brought trials upon them – it was their blood-guilt in selling him into slavery. Little did they realize how God would exalt Joseph to become a Hebrew-speaking ‘Prince of Egypt,’ able to understand all their words of self-accusation (Gen. 42:23). Nor could they have grasped why this mighty Egyptian Prince would weep silently in Gen. 42:24 and then turn around and imprison their brother Simeon. We will discover more in tomorrow’s notes as to who Simeon was. But today’s lesson is to see how completely out of control and out of their element Joseph’s brothers were. No longer able to hide their crime of years earlier, they are exposed to painful consequences for their action. So weakened are they that they dare not protest when Joseph takes one of the elder leaders of their clan, Simeon, as a prisoner to dispose of as he sees fit.
Meditate and Pray: Just as Joseph’s brothers must bow to his right to do whatever he sees fit with them and their loved ones, so we must bow before our King Jesus with all that we are and have, confessing that He has the right to dispose of us as He sees fit. At this Thanksgiving Time, commit your family, possessions, treasures and future entirely into His hands with the words of hymn # 108 in our Trinity Hymnal:
“What-e’er my God ordains is right: His holy will abideth; I will be still what-e’er He doth, and follow where He guideth. He is my God; though dark my road, He holds me that I shall not fall: wherefore to Him I leave it all.” (Samuel Rodigast, 1675)
Tuesday: read Genesis 42:18-20, 42:24 and Genesis 49:5-7. Simeon’s chastisements from God run deep in the book of Genesis: not only here, where Joseph picks him to be a hostage in prison, but also in Genesis 49:5-7 where Jacob the father of the whole clan utters a curse on Simeon and Levi from his death bed! Why? Because these two brothers had been the ring leaders in the rape and pillage of Shechem – see Genesis 34:25-31 – acting in vengeance after the prince of that Canaanite city had violated their sister Dinah. Now, beginning in Genesis 42:24, Simeon begins to feel God’s wrath for this long-hidden deed of violence. God’s memory is long when it comes to chastising His children for their unconfessed and unforgiven sin.
Meditate and Pray: Have you ever felt the pain of God’s loving chastisement? As Hebrews 12:11 reminds us, this is never painless, but it is a reminder that we are God’s children, for “the Lord disciplines those He loves” (Hebrews 12:6). May God give us grace to see our trials and afflictions with the joy of hymn
# 609: “Why should cross and trial grieve me? Christ is near with His cheer; never will He leave me. Who can rob me of the heaven that God’s Son for my own to my faith has given?” (Paul Gerhardt, 1653)
Wednesday: read Genesis 42:24-36. Shocked by the discovery that their money for wheat had found its way back into their bags for the trip home (see Gen. 42:28), Joseph’s brothers confess that God is directly touching their lives in inexplicable ways: “What is this that God has done to us?” they ask. How can they again face the Prince of Egypt who had sold them their grain when it looks like they have stolen wheat at no cost? Well, they won’t face Joseph again but quickly scamper home glad to save their own skins. Upon hearing their tale, their father proclaims what all of them were feeling: “Everything is against me!” (Gen. 42:36). How wrong they all were: God’s loving purpose to feed, forgive and save them was closer than they could have known! It is always darkest before the dawn. We often want to give up right before God plans to give us the long-awaited answers to our prayers.
Meditate and Pray: How we must learn to wait hopefully on God, even when it seems events are going against us, convinced that the Lord IS coming and will not fail or disappoint us. Let us ask God to give us the optimism which makes us wait for the dawning of God’s purposes. Make Psalm 130:6-7 your prayer: “My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. O Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with Him is full redemption.”
Thursday: read Genesis 42:36-43:2. Family tensions will surely surface in Jacob’s family during this time of testing. God plans it that way: the same Refining Grace which purified Joseph through years of trial in Egypt now works to try and test all of Joseph’s family. God begins by exposing the sinful weaknesses of the father, namely, his blind favoritism to the children of Rachel. Just as he favored Joseph above his brethren, causing them to jealously hate their brother (Gen. 37:3-4), so Jacob cleaves to Benjamin in Gen. 42:38, determined that no one will come between him and his youngest son – even if the rest of the family starves for lack of food! We may sympathize with Jacob’s fears since both Joseph and Simeon had been taken from him (Gen. 42:36). But there is no excuse for his willingness to delay getting wheat until it was almost too late – see Gen. 43:10, where Judah rebukes his father for having waited so long! Thus the selfish fears of Jacob threaten to undo all the help which his family is to find in Egypt!
Meditate and Pray: Thank God that He is able to dig deep in His sanctifying purposes in our lives, exposing long-held weaknesses and prejudices, so that, in the end, we become more and more like Christ. Ask God to be as lovingly relentless with you as He was with Jacob, using the words of Hymn # 491, verses 1-2:
Take me, O my Father, take me;
Take me, save me, through Thy Son;
That which Thou wouldst have me, make me,
Let Thy will in me be done.
Long from Thee my footsteps straying,
Thorny proved the way I trod;
Weary come I now, and praying,
Take me to Thy love, my God.
Fruitless years with grief recalling,
Humbly I confess my sin;
At Thy feet, O Father, falling,
To Thy household take me in.
Freely now to Thee I proffer
This relenting heart of mine;
Freely life and love I offer,
Gift unworthy love like Thine. (Ray Palmer, 1854)
Friday: read Genesis 43:1-14. Who is it that is finally able to persuade Jacob to adopt a position of faith and action, in which he entrusts Benjamin to the care of his brothers, in order for the life-saving mission for wheat in Egypt to go forward? The answer is Judah who promises his father that if Benjamin does not return safely, then he will “bear the blame” for all of his life (Gen. 43:9). Literally Judah promises: “I will be a sinner before you always.” Later Judah repeats the same promise as he pleads unknowingly to his brother Joseph for the life of Benjamin: “Your servant guaranteed the boy’s safety to my father. I said, ‘If I do not bring him back to you, I will be a sinner before you, my father, all my life!’” Joseph is so moved by Judah’s willingness to be a substitute guilt-bearer for the rest of his family that he finally reveals himself as the long-lost brother and royal savior of his family in Gen. 45:1.
Meditate and Pray: Should we not be moved by our Intercessor from Judah, Jesus Christ, just as much as Joseph was by the first Judah – when we think of how we deliberately lost all the valuables of our Father’s house and spoiled our inheritance through our fall in sin with Adam? How moving it is to know that Christ in Heaven answers for all our guilt, undertakes for our preservation and ensures that we make it safely home – not back to the earthly Canaan to meet Jacob our Father, but up to Heaven to be welcomed one day by the loving Heavenly Father, revealed to us there through the glory of Jesus Christ. What security to have such a one from Judah to stand even now before the Heavenly Throne for us. As Charles Wesley wrote in hymn # 305, verse 1 & 3:
Arise, my soul, arise,
shake off your guilty fears;
The bleeding Sacrifice,
in my behalf appears;
Before the throne my Surety stands,
Before the throne my Surety stands,
My name is written on His hands.
Five bleeding wounds He bears;
received on Calvary;
They pour effectual prayers;
they strongly plead for me:
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Forgive him, O forgive,” they cry,
“Nor let that ransomed sinner die!