Introduction: God is a wonderful story-teller, as He begins to bring together all the complex pieces of the lives of the sons of Jacob to weave them into one seamless garment of answered prayer and restored relationships. But even more wonderful: this moving chapter of Joseph being brought to the place of revealing himself to his brothers (Gen. 45:1) is no story at all: it is true history. May God therefore encourage us to look for real, dramatic answers to prayer in our families as we see Joseph’s family restored to God and to himself.
Monday: read Genesis 43:15-18. Joseph’s brothers have guilty consciences. They know their own guilt from their long-hidden crimes against their brother (remember Gen. 42:21) and every twist and turn in Egypt makes them cringe in fear of being found out. This time they panic when they are invited to Joseph’s house in Gen. 43:18 and assume that an ambush is near in which the Egyptian who is actually their brother will overpower them and make them slaves in his own house. How we ought to sympathize with these poor, tormented souls who so long ago dug a pit for the abuse and enslavement of their brother and who now fear falling into it themselves. In this way these men are living the reality of Proverbs 26:27: “If a man digs a pit, he will fall into it; if a man rolls a stone, it will roll back on him.”
Meditate and Pray: How secure we should feel with the patient, but sure and certain justice, of God. We really have no need, as well as no justification, for taking vengeance into our own hands. For those who oppose us in our faith, it will be a fearful thing for them to fall into the hands of the Living God (Hebrews 10:31). Let us ask God to give us compassion for our enemies and for the enemies of His church who even now teeter on the brink of falling into pits of judgment. May the Lord teach us to pray as He did on the Cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” We may well be surprised when such foes become our brothers.
Tuesday: read Genesis 43:19-25. The brothers seek to avoid catastrophe by explaining to Joseph’s steward how their money mysteriously appeared in their travel bags after they had purchased wheat with it (Gen. 43:19-22). They promise to give the money back and offer further payment for the new wheat they plan to buy. But Joseph’s steward will have none of it. What follows is an amazing reassurance from him in verse 23: “It’s all right,” he said. “Don’t be afraid. Your God, the God of your father, has given you treasure in your sacks; I received your silver.” Did Joseph’s faith influence even the servants of his household? Note how the steward gives credit not to Egyptian Divinities but to the very “God of your father” whom Joseph and his brothers worshipped! According to this servant, it is the “God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” who is the reason for the blessings now coming upon the mystified brothers of Joseph. How kind God is to put reminders on the lips of this Egyptian of the faithfulness of the very God whom these guilty brothers had been running from all these years! They can’t get away from Him nor can they resist the bounty of Grace which He is determined to pour out on their undeserving heads!
Meditate and Pray: Pastor Bill Harrell, quoting from that great poem by Francis Thompson, The Hound of Heaven, sums up the Grace which surprised Joseph’s brothers as guests in Joseph’s house: “All which thy child’s mistake fancies lost, I have stored for thee at home. Rise, clasp my hand, and come!”
“Lord, when we have sinned and failed you, do not let us add to our guilt and sense of shame the foolish underestimation of your Grace which assumes that your kindness towards us is now stopped up. Help us to believe that, where our sin has abounded, your Grace can abound all the more. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.”
Wednesday: read Genesis 43:26-31. Upon returning home, Joseph is greatly moved to see his brother Benjamin, so much so that he must run and weep in private before regaining composure to eat the feast which had been prepared for his house guests. For Joseph as well as his parents, Benjamin was a child of destiny, the one whose name had been changed by Jacob from Rachel’s grief-stricken ‘Ben-Oni,’ meaning ‘Son of My Sorrow,’ to ‘Benjamin,’ ‘Son of My Right Hand’ (see Genesis 35:18). More than that, because his mother had died in bearing him, there was a special affection attached to him, and for Joseph, his little brother was a reminder of the family he had lost and so longingly wanted to regain.
Meditate and Pray: Thank God our Wise Heavenly Father that He often, like Jacob, re-names our heartbreaking life-stories with the names of Faith and Triumph. What to Rachel was the tragic loss of her youngest as she left this world was to Jacob and his whole family proof that God had “heard” Rachel in her barrenness and given her the children she asked for.
“Lord, this Thanksgiving time, please help us to rightly interpret the tragedies of our lives and to read in even the deepest of our griefs the handwriting of your Loving Providence. Teach us to take comfort in knowing that, though we don’t understand why things happen, you do; though we don’t have the answers, you do. Give us Grace to rest in your All-Knowing, Wise Providence as the only answer we need. Amen.”
Thursday: read Genesis 43:32-44:15. The most charitable construction we can put on Joseph’s claim to be a fortune-teller and a spiritist who uses a ‘cup of divination’ to tell the future (Gen. 44:5 & 15) is that this was part of maintaining his disguise as a Prince of Egypt, who could read the secrets of these brothers, even seating them according to age (Gen. 43:33). We know, moreover, that all Joseph’s actions were dictated by the need to expose and test the guilty character of his brothers. So, he tempts them to jealousy by favoring Benjamin as he had been favored as a young man, giving the young man five times more to eat (Gen. 43:34). He also tests their willingness to remain loyal to this youngest brother. Wouldn’t it be far easier for them to abandon Benjamin as they had abandoned Joseph – especially when the Prince of Egypt’s prized cup of divination is found in his bag (Gen. 44:12)? In this way, inspired by God’s exhaustive knowledge of his brothers’ sinful hearts, Joseph lays bare the very sin issues which his brothers had sought to hide for all those years. Nothing needing to be rectified in their lives will escape God’s notice!
Meditate and Pray: Use the words of Hymn # 36 to thankfully confess God’s complete knowledge of your heart, actions and life:
“Lord, thou hast searched me, and dost know wher-e’er I rest, wher-e’er I go; thou knowest all that I have planned, and all my ways are in thy hand. My words from thee I cannot hide; I feel thy power on every side; O wondrous knowledge, awesome might, unfathomed depth, unmeasured height!”
Friday: read Genesis 44:14-45:1. Judah it is that steps forward to save Benjamin from bearing the blame for the ‘stolen’ silver cup found in his bag (Gen. 44:12). In Gen. 44:33-34, Judah pleads with Joseph to allow him to bear the punishment of slavery and exile in Egypt in order for Benjamin to be set free to go home to be with his loving father Jacob. Notice again as we close out this week’s notes the ‘language of blame’ which Judah used in order to persuade his father to allow him to bring Benjamin down to Egypt: “If I do not bring him back to you, I will bear the blame before you, my father, all my life” (Gen. 44:32).
Such self-sacrificial language demanded Jacob’s respect. After all, Jacob himself had used this language in Gen. 31:39 when describing how he had “borne the loss” of Laban’s torn animals himself. In the same way, Judah was willing to restore the life of Benjamin to his father at the cost of “bearing the loss” of his own. Such a change in Judah’s heart – in the heart of the very one who had suggested Joseph be sold into slavery in Gen. 37:27 – also commanded the respect of Joseph, who must have reasoned to himself in Gen. 45:1: “If God has done this great work of changing my brother Judah into the ‘blame-bearer,’ how can I refuse his pleas for the lives not only of Benjamin but of the whole clan of Jacob?”
Meditate and Pray: Thank God for His choosing the tribe of Judah to be the persuasive, life-saving mediator for all the sinful, guilty sons of Jacob. Even more, thank God that our Representative, Jesus, also from the tribe of Judah, actually went through the exile, slavery and death from which the first Judah was spared. Worship Jesus the ‘blame-bearer’ in the words of Hymn # 248 (verse 2) which address Jesus most movingly:
“Who was the guilty who brought this upon thee? Alas, my treason, Jesus hath undone thee.
Twas I, Lord Jesus, I it was denied thee: I crucified thee.”
(Johann Heermann, 1630)