Genesis 44:1-17

44 Now Joseph gave these instructions to the steward of his house: “Fill the men’s sacks with as much food as they can carry, and put each man’s silver in the mouth of his sack. Then put my cup, the silver one, in the mouth of the youngest one’s sack, along with the silver for his grain.” And he did as Joseph said.

As morning dawned, the men were sent on their way with their donkeys. They had not gone far from the city when Joseph said to his steward, “Go after those men at once, and when you catch up with them, say to them, ‘Why have you repaid good with evil? Isn’t this the cup my master drinks from and also uses for divination? This is a wicked thing you have done.’”

When he caught up with them, he repeated these words to them. But they said to him, “Why does my lord say such things? Far be it from your servants to do anything like that! We even brought back to you from the land of Canaan the silver we found inside the mouths of our sacks. So why would we steal silver or gold from your master’s house?If any of your servants is found to have it, he will die; and the rest of us will become my lord’s slaves.”

10 “Very well, then,” he said, “let it be as you say. Whoever is found to have it will become my slave; the rest of you will be free from blame.”

11 Each of them quickly lowered his sack to the ground and opened it.12 Then the steward proceeded to search, beginning with the oldest and ending with the youngest. And the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack.13 At this, they tore their clothes. Then they all loaded their donkeys and returned to the city.

14 Joseph was still in the house when Judah and his brothers came in, and they threw themselves to the ground before him. 15 Joseph said to them, “What is this you have done? Don’t you know that a man like me can find things out by divination?”

16 “What can we say to my lord?” Judah replied. “What can we say? How can we prove our innocence? God has uncovered your servants’ guilt. We are now my lord’s slaves—we ourselves and the one who was found to have the cup.”

17 But Joseph said, “Far be it from me to do such a thing! Only the man who was found to have the cup will become my slave. The rest of you, go back to your father in peace.”
(Genesis 44:1-17 NIV)

As we ended Chapter 43, we saw Joseph throw a lunch party for his brothers, where he honored his brother Benjamin by serving him five times as much food as the rest of the brothers.  Joseph has not revealed himself to his brothers, so they only know him as the Egyptian ruler, second only to Pharaoh.

As we begin Chapter 44, we see Joseph giving them one final test to see how much they had really changed.  Did they really care about their half-brother Benjamin, or would they give him up as they had given up Joseph so many years ago?  The test would feel extremely ominous, but in the end, posed no real threat to Benjamin.

Joseph worked through his house steward to set up the test.  The steward was to put the money back in each man’s grain sack, and also put Joseph’s silver cup in Benjamin’s grain sack.

The next morning, the brothers headed back to their homeland.  Joseph sent his steward after the brothers to begin the test by accusing them of stealing his silver cup.  Joseph did not mention the money he returned to each man; the silver cup was the only focus.

Joseph intensified the accusation by instructing his steward to tell the brothers that the silver cup was not just for drinking, but for divination as well.  We don’t know if Joseph actually practiced divination (fortune telling) or not.  The brothers would be familiar with the Egyptian practice of divination, and would know the value of a vessel used for such practices, and the seriousness of the charges against the one who would steal it.

When the steward finally catches up to the brothers, they innocently and vehemently  deny any such wrongdoing.  They even promise to kill the brother that has the silver cup and volunteer the rest of them to be slaves to the Egyptians if the steward’s accusations are true.  These are pretty bold statements for men who had not bothered to check their grain sacks before leaving Joseph’s house.

The steward fits the punishment to the crime – the brother with the silver cup in his sack will become a slave to Joseph; all the rest of the brothers can go free.

The brothers quickly complied, and the inspection began.  To the brothers’ horror and bewilderment, the silver cup was found in Benjamin’s grain sack.  The brothers immediately tore their clothes as a sign of deep sorrow that knows no comfort.  The tearing of garments was often practiced when someone very close had died.

The brothers had passed the first part of the test – they did not abandon their brother Benjamin and head back home – they all went back to Egypt to face Joseph.

When the brothers came into Joseph’s house, they showed extreme humility by prostrating themselves on the floor before Joseph.  Judah spoke up and begged forgiveness and mercy on behalf of all the brothers.    Judah passed the second part of the test – demonstrating solidarity among all the brothers.  If Benjamin was guilty and deserved enslavement, then they would all be guilty and become slaves.

Joseph appreciated the gesture, but only wanted the one who had the cup.  The rest were free to go home, fully acquitted, cleared of all wrongdoing.  This was the final test – would they abandon their half-brother Benjamin, or would they stand with him and protect him at all costs, even their own freedom?

We’ll see how the brothers respond in our next time together.

Here we have such a clear picture of what Jesus did for us, taking the penalty for our sins so we can be set free.

May we follow the brothers’ and Jesus’ example and stand with those who need someone to be an advocate, a united voice to stand with them.

Blessings,
~kevin

Genesis 43:16-34

16 When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the steward of his house, “Take these men to my house, slaughter an animal and prepare a meal; they are to eat with me at noon.”

17 The man did as Joseph told him and took the men to Joseph’s house.18 Now the men were frightened when they were taken to his house.  They thought, “We were brought here because of the silver that was put back into our sacks the first time. He wants to attack us and overpower us and seize us as slaves and take our donkeys.”

19 So they went up to Joseph’s steward and spoke to him at the entrance to the house. 20 “We beg your pardon, our lord,” they said, “we came down here the first time to buy food. 21 But at the place where we stopped for the night we opened our sacks and each of us found his silver—the exact weight—in the mouth of his sack. So we have brought it back with us. 22 We have also brought additional silver with us to buy food. We don’t know who put our silver in our sacks.”

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.” Then he brought Simeon out to them.

24 The steward took the men into Joseph’s house, gave them water to wash their feet and provided fodder for their donkeys. 25 They prepared their gifts for Joseph’s arrival at noon, because they had heard that they were to eat there.

26 When Joseph came home, they presented to him the gifts they had brought into the house, and they bowed down before him to the ground.27 He asked them how they were, and then he said, “How is your aged father you told me about? Is he still living?”

28 They replied, “Your servant our father is still alive and well.” And they bowed down, prostrating themselves before him.

29 As he looked about and saw his brother Benjamin, his own mother’s son, he asked, “Is this your youngest brother, the one you told me about?” And he said, “God be gracious to you, my son.” 30 Deeply moved at the sight of his brother, Joseph hurried out and looked for a place to weep. He went into his private room and wept there.

31 After he had washed his face, he came out and, controlling himself,said, “Serve the food.”

32 They served him by himself, the brothers by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves, because Egyptians could not eat with Hebrews, for that is detestable to Egyptians. 33 The men had been seated before him in the order of their ages, from the firstborn to the youngest; and they looked at each other in astonishment. 34 When portions were served to them from Joseph’s table, Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as anyone else’s. So they feasted and drank freely with him.
(Genesis 43:16-34 NIV)

In the first part of Chapter 43, the brothers finally convinced their father to let them return to Egypt with their youngest brother Benjamin in order to buy more food, as the famine was over their country as well as Egypt.

In today’s passage, Joseph sees his brothers, including his full brother Benjamin with the rest of his half-brothers.  He orders his servant to prepare a noon meal for them all at his home.

The brothers were afraid when they were taken away from the public buildings to Joseph’s home.  Their minds went to worst-case condition – they thought they were being punished and possibly enslaved for the money that was returned in their sacks from their last visit.  After all, their father had warned them that they would be seen as thieves as well as foreigners, didn’t he?

Not wanting to leave anything to chance, the brothers spoke to the servant in charge and told him all about their last visit, including the part about finding their money in each man’s grain sack.  The servant assured them they had nothing to fear, and that God was showing them mercy, not justice.  To reaffirm his words, the servant brought Simeon (who had been held until the brothers returned with Benjamin) out and reunited him with the rest of the brothers.

The brothers heeded the servant’s message, and got busy preparing themselves for the meal with the Egyptian ruler (Joseph).  They prepared their gifts they had brought, and cleaned themselves up as well.

When Joseph arrived, the brothers bowed down to him (as God had given Joseph the dream so many years before) and gave their gifts to him.  When Joseph saw Benjamin, he was overcome with emotion and left the room until he could compose himself again.

When Joseph returned, he ordered lunch to be served.  The brothers were amazed that they were seated according to birth order.  They were also astonished that Benjamin was given five times as much food as any of the other brothers.  What was happening here?

Moses points out the Egyptian cultural customs for dining.  Joseph, being a ruler, dined at a table by himself.  The other Egyptians dined together, as they did not share the same table with Hebrews.  The brothers ate at a separate table by themselves.

Among all this wonder, the brothers relaxed and had a wonderful dinner with Joseph.  Before Joseph revealed himself to them, he was reacquainting himself with his brothers, learning what they were like now that so many years had passed.

While the story is quite straightforward, there are some definite lessons to be learned from today’s text.

One lesson is how we perceive the unknown before us.  Do we automatically jump to “worst-case scenario” like the brothers did when they were taken to Joseph’s house?  Or do we stop and pray and inquire what the Lord is doing, to see if it might be a blessing instead?

Another lesson is the amazing power of hospitality and a shared meal.  Even though Egyptian customs dictated separate tables, Joseph, the Egyptians, and the brothers still enjoyed breaking bread together and sharing the time as a group.

May we make time – create margin – in our busy schedules to connect with others.  It’s not about the house being perfectly in order; it’s not about a fancy meal – it’s simply about spending time together to get to know one another and hear one another’s stories.

And in those shared stories and time together, we find commonality as well as learn to respect and appreciate our uniqueness and differences.

Blessings,
~kevin

Genesis 42:25-38

25 Joseph gave orders to fill their bags with grain, to put each man’s silver back in his sack, and to give them provisions for their journey.  After this was done for them, 26 they loaded their grain on their donkeys and left.

27 At the place where they stopped for the night one of them opened his sack to get feed for his donkey, and he saw his silver in the mouth of his sack. 28 “My silver has been returned,” he said to his brothers. “Here it is in my sack.”

Their hearts sank and they turned to each other trembling and said, “What is this that God has done to us?”

29 When they came to their father Jacob in the land of Canaan, they told him all that had happened to them. They said, 30 “The man who is lord over the land spoke harshly to us and treated us as though we were spying on the land. 31 But we said to him, ‘We are honest men; we are not spies. 32 We were twelve brothers, sons of one father. One is no more, and the youngest is now with our father in Canaan.’

33 “Then the man who is lord over the land said to us, ‘This is how I will know whether you are honest men: Leave one of your brothers here with me, and take food for your starving households and go. 34 But bring your youngest brother to me so I will know that you are not spies but honest men. Then I will give your brother back to you, and you can trade in the land.’”

35 As they were emptying their sacks, there in each man’s sack was his pouch of silver! When they and their father saw the money pouches, they were frightened. 36 Their father Jacob said to them, “You have deprived me of my children. Joseph is no more and Simeon is no more, and now you want to take Benjamin. Everything is against me!”

37 Then Reuben said to his father, “You may put both of my sons to death if I do not bring him back to you. Entrust him to my care, and I will bring him back.”

38 But Jacob said, “My son will not go down there with you; his brother is dead and he is the only one left. If harm comes to him on the journey you are taking, you will bring my gray head down to the grave in sorrow.”
(Genesis 42:25-38 NIV)

My apologies – I somehow skipped this passage last time, and jumped right to Chapter 43!

In the first part of Chapter 42, Joseph recognizes his brothers when they arrive in Egypt to buy grain.  Joseph does not reveal his identity to them, but instead treats them as strangers and questions their motives for being in Egypt by accusing them of being spies.

Joseph inquires about the brothers’ family, and quickly learns that his father is still alive, as well as his younger full blood brother Benjamin.  Joseph devises a plan to make the brothers bring his brother Benjamin to Egypt so he can see him again.  Joseph holds Simeon as hostage until the other brothers bring Benjamin to Egypt.

In today’s passage, Joseph approves the sale of grain to the brothers, gives them provisions for their trip, then sends them on their way.  In his desire to bless his brothers, he has secretly returned each brother’s money in the top of their grain sacks.

One of the brothers discovers the money in his sack when they stop overnight on their way home.  The brothers automatically blame God for their predicament, and wonder what could have brought on this judgment from the Almighty.

The brothers arrive at home and tell all the details to Jacob, their father.  Jacob listens as the brothers recount their stories.  Everything is apparently fine until the brothers pour out the grain in their sacks, and discover that every man’s sack contains their money.

At this point, Jacob blames his sons for all his life’s misfortunes.  Jacob’s assumption is that the brothers will be known as thieves in Egypt, and that he will never see Simeon again, as the brothers could never show their face in Egypt again because of their bad actions.

Reuben tries to console his father, but his offer is no offer at all in Jacob’s eyes and heart.  To lose two sons (Joseph and Simeon) is bad enough; to lose two grandsons on top of his two lost sons is just as bad or worse.

Jacob also makes it clear that there is no way that he will ever allow Benjamin to go to Egypt under the current conditions.  This is the only surviving son (or so he thinks) of his beloved and departed wife Rachel – he will not sacrifice or put Benjamin at risk in any way, shape, or form.

Jacob ends this section by telling his sons that if he were to trust them and send his son (their brother) Benjamin down to Egypt and something were to happen to Benjamin, that it would be like they were sending their father to a living hell (Sheol).

Joseph’s act of kindness (returning the money for each brother) creates a crisis of faith within the brothers and with his father.  Will they trust God, or will they continue to react in fear?

How do we respond when we are faced with our own crisis of faith?

Do we make unholy agreements based only on what we know and respond out of fear or out of natural response?

Or do we go immediately to our Father in Heaven and ask for His assistance to understand, or how to proceed?

May we turn to our Heavenly Father for wisdom and next steps for all of life’s events.

Blessings,
~kevin

Genesis 43:1-15

43 Now the famine was still severe in the land. So when they had eaten all the grain they had brought from Egypt, their father said to them, “Go back and buy us a little more food.”

But Judah said to him, “The man warned us solemnly, ‘You will not see my face again unless your brother is with you.’ If you will send our brother along with us, we will go down and buy food for you. But if you will not send him, we will not go down, because the man said to us, ‘You will not see my face again unless your brother is with you.’”

Israel asked, “Why did you bring this trouble on me by telling the man you had another brother?”

They replied, “The man questioned us closely about ourselves and our family. ‘Is your father still living?’ he asked us. ‘Do you have another brother?’ We simply answered his questions. How were we to know he would say, ‘Bring your brother down here’?”

Then Judah said to Israel his father, “Send the boy along with me and we will go at once, so that we and you and our children may live and not die. I myself will guarantee his safety; you can hold me personally responsible for him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him here before you, I will bear the blame before you all my life. 10 As it is, if we had not delayed, we could have gone and returned twice.”

11 Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be, then do this: Put some of the best products of the land in your bags and take them down to the man as a gift—a little balm and a little honey, some spices and myrrh, some pistachio nuts and almonds. 12 Take double the amount of silver with you, for you must return the silver that was put back into the mouths of your sacks. Perhaps it was a mistake. 13 Take your brother also and go back to the man at once. 14 And may God Almighty grant you mercy before the man so that he will let your other brother and Benjamin come back with you. As for me, if I am bereaved, I am bereaved.”

15 So the men took the gifts and double the amount of silver, and Benjamin also. They hurried down to Egypt and presented themselves to Joseph.
(Genesis 43:1-15 NIV)

In Chapter 42, Jacob sends his sons (minus Benjamin) to Egypt to buy grain, as the famine was over the entire region, not just Egypt.  Joseph recognized his brothers, but did not disclose his identity to them.  Joseph tested his brothers by accusing them of being spies, and required them to bring their brother Benjamin back with them.  Joseph held Simeon and sent the rest of the brothers home to bring back Benjamin.

Joseph also returned the brothers’ money in the sacks of grain he had sold them.  When they returned home, they told their father Jacob about the strange ordeal.  Jacob refused to even consider letting Benjamin go to Egypt.

As we begin Chapter 43, the famine is still raging, and they have consumed all the grain they purchased before.  Jacob tells his sons to go back down to Egypt and buy more grain.  The brothers remind Jacob that they can’t go back without Benjamin.

Judah steps up and personally takes responsibility for Benjamin’s safety on the journey.  This is a surprise, as Judah was the one that had the idea that they should sell Joseph to the traders passing by.  Judah’s heart had undergone a transformation, from profit-seeker to family-protector.

Jacob ridicules his sons for having told the Egyptian ruler about their family and bringing up the point about Benjamin.  Jacob’s sons remind their father that they were being honest , and had no way of knowing that the ruler (Joseph) would require them to bring Benjamin to Egypt.

Finally, Jacob relents and sends his sons (including Benjamin) to Egypt to buy more grain.  Jacob tells his sons to take double the money – returning the original money plus money to buy more grain.  Jacob also tells his sons to bring some of the good produce of the land with them as gifts to the Egyptian ruler.

As we look at the gift list that Jacob recommended, we see that times were indeed hard.  A little balm and a little honey, some spices and myrrh, some pistachio nuts and almonds were all they had to offer.  It was not the cost of the gift or the quantity of the gift – it was the heart attitude reflected by the giving of the gift.

Notice that Jacob counts the cost of sending Benjamin to Egypt.  He puts his son in God’s hands, and leaves the matter with the Lord.  Jacob offers his blessing on his sons, and prays for God’s mercy when the sons meet with the Egyptian ruler this time, asking the Lord to bring back all his sons, including Simeon and Benjamin.

What (or whom) are we willing to entrust into God’s hands?

What circumstances will it take before we entrust that thing or person to the Lord?

May we release our troubles and trials to the Lord, laying them at the foot of the cross.

Blessings,
~kevin

Happy New Year – 2019

In past years, my practice has been to ask the Lord for a word, theme, or phrase for the new year.  This year is no different in that regard.

As I pondered and prayed this year, three words came to mind:

  • Renovation
  • Renewal
  • Restoration

Seeing these three words, I remembered my grandparents talking about the three “R’s” of education a hundred years ago (phonetic “R’s”, of course) – Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic.  While my three “R’s” this year are certainly educational, they are much more than that – they are spiritual, and deeply personal.

Renovation is the key to these three R’s, as it starts with a new design.  Renovation assumes that something is there already, but needs changed.  To begin the renovation, I need to yield to God’s design for me and my life.  Instead of bringing my plans to Him and asking Him to bless them, I need to bring myself to Him and ask Him where He is working and where He would want me to join Him in what He is already doing.

One new thing this year that the Lord has also shown me is to confess and break any unholy alliances that I may have unknowingly made with the enemy of my soul.  These often come in the form of presuppositions, agreements, or assumptions that I may have made about a given situation or the future as I look at the past and into the new year:

  • “This is going to be a tough year at work”
  • “My calendar for the year is already full”
  • “I don’t know how we’re going to make it financially”
  • “I am stuck in this health rut and can’t get out”
  • “I can’t make new friends or find anyone to talk to about life”

I am not proposing a “prosperity theology” solution, to “name it and claim it”.  Rather, I need to turn my presuppositions into opportunities to yield all of my life to Him – to give Him my work, my calendar, my finances, my health, my relationships – and ask Him what He has in mind for me in each and every area of my life.

Finally, I am reminded to ask the Lord for a promise from His Word that I can depend upon, that I can lean on through good times and hard times alike.

For me, this year’s verse is Revelation 21:5:

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”  Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
(Revelation 21:5 ESV)

God has made all things new through Jesus, He is making all things new in me (and you), and He will make all things new when He comes again one day.

That’s a promise you and I can count on we can write it down and depend on it.

What’s the word or phrase the Lord has given you for the new year?

What are the unholy alliances, the assumptions, the agreements with the enemy of your soul that you’ve made and need to confess and give to the Lord?

Have you asked the Lord for a promise from His Word that will carry you through the year?  If so, have you written it down and put it in a place that you will be reminded every day of His goodness and love toward you?

Blessings for your 2019,
~kevin