Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Genesis 43:1-14

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! (Gen 42:36)

When Jacob refused to let the brothers take Benjamin back to Egypt to rescue Simeon, Jacob blurts out what has been on his heart for a long time. For years he apparently had been convinced that these sons had been the cause of Joseph’s death, but in this scene, he so much as says so. His “Everything is against me!” shows that he was convinced he was the victim. Jon Courson notes that he is referred to consistently as Jacob, rather than Israel here, because he is anything but “ruled by God.” He will see soon that God has been in charge all along for the good of this family, at this moment he is wrapped up in the “woe-is-me” blanket.

This next chapter shows us what it took to get Jacob to change his position on Benjamin: an empty stomach!

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.” (Gen 43:1-2)

You would have thought it was a small thing to run down to Egypt for a loaf of bread! Now we will see Judah finally step up to lead this family. Remember that it i from Judah’s tribe that the Savior is to come so we want to see God’s hand on this line. The last time we read specifically about Judah was in chapter 38, when he slept with his daughter-in-law, Tamar. Not his best moment. However, he had redeemed himself by finally accepting responsibility for his sin (38:26). Sometime between chapters 38 and 42, Judah had moved back home with his family, and now he reminds his father what it will cost to get more grain. Reading this exchange makes me want to slap Jacob up the side of his head!:

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?” (vs.3-5) [Here’s where I want to smack him!]

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’?” (vs.3-7)

I’m choosing to hear patience in his voice as Judah tries to reason with his father 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. As it is, if we had not delayed, we could have gone and returned twice.” (vs.8-10)

Judah reminds Jacob that the survival of the entire family depends on their taking this trip (which they could have done a long time ago, had Jacob been reasonable). And here Judah accepts full responsibility for the success or failure of the trip. Although, the reality is that he and his brothers had already been bearing all of the blame from their father for years anyway! I love how Beth says,"Guilt and blame were the stakes holding up the family tent.” Can you relate?

Jacob finally relents - what choice did he have? He sends them off with gifts to attempt to appease the Egyptian prime minister (even as he had done with Esau years before), and finally calls on God’s mercy:

Take your brother also and go back to the man at once. 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.” (vs.13-14)

Jacob was at the breaking point, and he recalls the God of his fathers, God Almighty, El Shaddai. Beth Moore points out that in chapter 17, when Jacob left his father, Isaac invoked the blessing of God Almighty on Jacob, but, at this point, when this family was barely holding on because of its dysfunction and need, Jacob asked for mercy! How often what we need is not blessing, but mercy! Only God, in His mercy and grace, could bring good out of this family!

Jacob sends the boys off with little hope as he agonizes, “I am bereaved, I am bereaved.” Are you seeing any trust and expectation here? Me neither! Just a lot of whining! How small is our picture of God Almighty sometimes!! We have the benefit of knowing the ending of Jacob’s story, so we can shake our heads at him. But Jacob was in the midst of this thing, just as you and I are now in the midst of our own situations. Are we looking to God with expectation, anticipating His mercy and blessing?? Or are we whining and feeling hopeless? “God Almighty” means just what it says: He is the God of the universe; He holds all things together, including our present situations. He has a sovereign plan. Let’s trust Him!


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