Introduction: In naming his oldest son Manasseh in Gen. 41:51, Joseph as Prince in Egypt claims to have ‘amnesia’ when it comes to remembering his birth father’s household. We may be disturbed by this. Now that he was free from prison and exalted to the highest of stations in Egypt: could he not send messengers back to his father? What joy for his beloved dad to hear that Joseph was still alive! How then are we to understand his silence? Had he really “forgotten his family” and, if so, why?
The answers in this week’s Bible notes lie in four facts about Joseph’s relationship with his family both before and after his exile in Egypt:
1) the demands of serving God in an urgent day (Monday – Tues);
2) patience under God’s perfect plan (Weds);
3) giving God time to stir memories (Thurs);
4) and remove the obstacles of long-forgotten sin (Fri).
This week may God move us deeply as we see Joseph deny himself many family pleasures, including renewed relationship with his loved ones in Canaan – in order to see God’s will fulfilled to the uttermost.
Monday: read Genesis 41:50-52 & Philippians 3:7-11. In his description of Egypt in Gen. 41:52 as “the land of his suffering,” Joseph shows us that he has not forgotten his father’s family because Egypt is his pleasure palace. He is not like the prodigal son in Luke 15:13 & 17 who forgets his father in the pursuit of spending all he had on riotous living – only remembering his father’s house when he “began to be in need.” Joseph suffers in Egypt as a life-long alien, tested and tried every day by sufferings God had planned and implemented for his life. His sufferings, and the resulting loss of his family for so many years, were all part of God’s plan.
Meditate and Pray: Let us soberly remind ourselves that sometimes the trials which God ordains for us result in our losing “goods and kindred,” as Martin Luther reminds us in Hymn # 92, verse 4:
“That Word above all earthly pow’rs, no thanks to them, abideth; the Spirit and the gifts are ours through him who with us sideth. Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also; the body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still; his kingdom is forever.”
God give us grace to accept the loss of all things for the sake of the incomparable joy of sharing in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings (Philippians 3:7-11).
Tuesday: read Genesis 41:50-57. I don’t think we can imagine how busy Joseph was providing for all the people of Egypt who came to seek his help in famine (Gen. 41:55); nor do we understand how many more burdens were laid on his shoulders when “all the countries of the world” (Gen. 41:57) came to buy grain. Did he manage to sleep let alone see his family for those seven years of want? How extraordinary were Joseph’s trials – crowding out normal life even in his time of exaltation in Egypt! Here is proof that Joseph is a type of Christ. Most of us will never have to face slavery, deportation, imprisonment and the intense loss of all that one holds dear as Joseph did. Nor will the “whole world” come to us in need for their very lives as they did to this Prince of Egypt. But God nevertheless can make His servants at times taste troubles deep enough to foreshadow the sufferings of Christ, who indeed had “no place to lay His head” (Luke 9:58). Joseph in “forgetting” even his own family to save the world points us to Jesus who left His Heavenly family in order to come down and save ours.
Meditate and Pray: Aren’t you glad that Jesus was willing to come down to this earth, “forgetting” all the comforts and honors of Heaven and allowing our trials and needs to consume Him? Surely Jesus is the One Savior who is even more thorough than Joseph in providing for His own. He alone “poured out His life unto death” and even now still lives in Heaven to intercede for us (Hebrews 7:25).
Wednesday: read Genesis 41:53-42:2 & Psalm 105:17-19. Only after years of famine did Jacob’s mind turn to buying food in Egypt (Gen. 42:1-2). Though his sons had no plans to go there (I wonder if their guilt in selling their brother there had anything to do with their hesitation?), and are rebuked by their father for their slowness to seek food in that land (Gen. 42:1), God still moved Jacob to this momentous decision: “Go down to Egypt.” This was according to God’s perfect timing. What good would have come from Joseph prematurely inviting his family down to Egypt as guests of the royal house? Can there be anything more obnoxious than this family of lowly shepherds suddenly “striking it rich” and arguing over who would get the most from their new found position of favor? No. Joseph knew his own family and waited a long time, well into the seven years of famine, before seeing God begin to put His plans in motion to bring his family there. In this way, Joseph learned to wait God’s time. As Psalm 105:19 puts it, “Until the time that his word came to pass, the word of the Lord tested him” (New King James Bible).
Meditate and Pray: Ask God to help you wait upon Him. Do you have family you long to see humbled into saving dependence on God? Are you weary of waiting for God to act? Are you tempted to hasty friendships because of long periods of loneliness? Remember Joseph. It is of the essence of faith to wait upon the Lord, knowing that God’s plan will be revealed in due time.
“For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.” (Habakkuk 2:3).
Thursday: read Genesis 41:51 & 42:1-9. God is the one who controls our memories. Great suffering for years in Egypt, from the age of 17 to 30 (compare Gen. 37:2 & 41:46) erased much from Joseph’s mind about his beloved family back home. Though now a Prince in Egypt, why would he think that his brothers would warmly receive him back given their hatred in earlier years (Gen. 37:19-20)? In many ways he would just as soon forget those painful years altogether. Yet see how God pressed the rewind button in Gen. 42:8-9, prompting Joseph to recognize his brothers and remember his dream about them at just the right time. In this way God’s Word, given to Joseph originally in his dreams, cut right through Joseph’s forgetfulness, bringing him all the way back to the life of that 17 year-old who had the Divine vision of his brothers bowing to him! (See Gen. 37:5-8).
Meditate and Pray: Let us thank God for His Word, “sharper than any two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12) and able to penetrate to our deepest memories and overcome all our suppression of the truth. Only God’s Word can do this. Thank Him that no one can withstand the Word’s cutting – and saving power!
Friday: read Genesis 42:8-21. Time and again God urges His people not to forget His Word and His mighty works of creation and salvation – see Deuteronomy 4:9, 23; 6:12, etc. But God’s people do forget. We forget even yesterday’s blessings. Thankfulness is perhaps the most quickly forgotten Christian duty in our lives. But thank God that His Spirit is able, even after long periods of deliberate memory loss, to jog our memories to recall our sins and our need for forgiveness. For example, Joseph’s brothers would never find peace until God took them back to painfully recall their sinful treatment of Joseph – something God does in Gen. 42:21. It didn’t take long for them under pressure from Joseph’s stern treatment (Gen. 42:9-20) to confess their cruelty towards their long lost brother: “Surely we are being punished because of our brother” (Gen. 42:21).
Meditate and Pray: Oh what confidence we should have in the Repentance-Producing Power of God. He is able to direct our memories back to recognize our sins; He is able to bring words of confession to our lips. Words which would have choked us to death before, we now pour forth as a River of Life!
“Lord, grant to us and to our loved ones the spirit of repentance which makes us rejoice to confess our sins to Jesus, the One who tells us “everything we ever did” (John 4:39).” Amen.