I used to cook dinner every night for our family. Because we homeschooled, I fixed breakfast and lunch, too. I wondered why God made us need to eat three times a day, plus snacks. It was hard to stop in the middle of math and make sandwiches. It was harder when little ones wanted to “help.” But feeding hungry folks is what mamas do.
Looking back I see how these regular breaks in our days brought us together, something much more vital to us than math.
It’s a complete turnabout for Judah. Rather than resent his father’s favorite living son, Benjamin, Judah’s grown to the place where he wants to protect him with his life. This is just the change of heart Joseph hoped to find, Ge 44:33-34 (for a story about Judah’s past, see https://iwantmore.blog/2021/01/18/of-scoundrels-and-scalawags/).
Josephs’ brothers returned to Egypt a second time to buy grain and bring Benjamin so that Joseph can see they’ve been telling the truth about being brothers from a large family rather than spies as he’s accused them. They also brought back the silver Joseph put in their sacks to test their honesty the last time they came, Ge 43:1, 15.
This time when his brothers load up to leave, Joseph has a servant secretly put his own silver cup in Benjamin’s grain sack, and then sends the servant after the brothers to accuse them of stealing it, Ge 45:1-13.
What’s with that?
Joseph’s testing to see whether or not they’ll care about this youngest brother’s plight, who will be imprisoned for stealing the cup while the rest go free. Will they repeat what they did to Joseph–leave Benjamin behind and break their father’s heart again? Maybe Joseph’s thinking if they decide to leave him, Benjamin will be better off in Egypt, but I’m guessing he’s hoping to find that his brothers are changed men.
Judah doesn’t disappoint. His promise to his father to bear the shame if Benjamin doesn’t return, as well as his offer to Joseph to be enslaved in Benjamin’s place, must have broken Joseph’s heart for the nobility and goodness of it, Ge 44:30-34.
Judah was the one who’d lead the brothers in selling Joseph to slave traders in the first place, but now he’s willing to lay down his life for another. He would have to give up fathering his own sons to remain in Egypt. The offer is staggering—a life for a life. It’s just the heart Joseph was hoping for. Along with other signs of repentance–their torn clothing, their falling down on their faces before him in grief–he has the sense that all his brothers are different men, Ge 44:13-14.
Judah’s plea is so moving, Joseph can’t bear the ruse any longer. He sends the Egyptians from the room and reveals himself to his brothers, “I am Joseph!” He weeps so loud that everyone outside hears him, “But his brothers were not able to answer him, because they were terrified at his presence,” Ge 45:1-3.
Why terrified? Because revenge runs deep in this family. Joseph has a good reason for it and the power to pull it off. There’s Esau, their father Jacob’s brother, swearing revenge against him for stealing his blessing. Jacob’s wives, sisters Rachel and Leah, compete with one another in child bearing, using the wombs of their servants to prove who’s best. There are Joseph’s brothers, Reuben, Simeon, and Levi, overzealous to take revenge after their sister is raped, who murder a whole city of men. And there’s the longstanding hatred toward Joseph, the favorite son, and their revenge against him and their father by selling him. Revenge is their family’s go-to, Ge 27:41; 30:3-8; 34; 37:3-4, 26-27.
But what does Joseph do? He weeps aloud, Ge 45:2.
He weeps tears of utter relief that the separation is over and healing can begin. These would be happy tears. But I’m wondering if some of his tears are for the pain of his own journey. He had to have had dark days with darker thoughts, ones that would have tempted him to ruminate. It would have been hard to let it all go and forgive, hard to accept God’s plan and trust that God knows best. But it would be the only real place of peace. Joseph has learned to rest in the arms of the One who brought him to Egypt.
He tells his brothers not to be distressed or angry with themselves for selling him. Three times in chapter 45 he says it was God who sent him there, “It was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you…But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God,” Ge 45:5-8. Joseph tells them God has a good plan, and he’s using them all to bring it about (for the story of this plan see https://iwantmore.blog/2021/01/20/the-plan/).
I can’t help but wonder if they tell the part about selling Joseph when the whole story is repeated to Jacob. They could keep it hidden, but they no longer need to. Joseph has forgiven them and been restored to them. Besides, if they’re truly repentant, they’d want to confess it.
And their father, of all people, would have understood their depravity. Like them, he killed and cooked a goat to deceive his father when he pretended to be Esau. Like them, he hated his brother enough to wish he were dead, tricking him from his birthright and stealing his blessing. Jacob’s well acquainted with his deceitful heart. He had to have grieved how his sins visited his sons and kept him from Joseph all those years. There’s plenty here for everyone to repent of.
All but Joseph who shows us what Jesus is like, the One who would come to do the same sort of suffering for love. Here are just a few of the 49 likenesses that have been found between Joseph and Jesus: Jesus, too, was dearly loved by his father, was hated by his brothers, prophesied his own coming glory, was cruelly treated and suffered betrayal, was sold for pieces of silver, was falsely accused, was handed over to unbelievers, was glorified after his humility, was honored among Gentiles while still despised or forgotten by his brothers, became the source of bread for the world, prepares a place for his brothers and provides for them, brings Jews and Gentiles together in a family relationship, (Joseph was given an Egyptian wife and had two sons, Ge 41:50-52), (http://enduringword.com/bible-comentary/genesis-45/).
The beauty of the story of Joseph is how God redeems the brothers’ evil behavior and turns it into salvation for their family, their nation, and the world, and all of this, without their help or even their repentance. God works his plan through the Savior Son who would come for them.
In fact, because of God’s plan to bring good from evil, they’re enabled to repent of the sin that began the story in the first place, and it happens after Joseph has already forgiven them. Joseph’s plan to find out what’s in their hearts reveals a desire for relationship with them, one that could only be desired if he’d already forgiven them, Ge 42:8-9. In this way, Joseph is like the Father, too, who watches for our returning to him.
Joseph loads them up with gifts to take home–silver and clothing for his brothers, and for his father, ten donkeys loaded with the best things of Egypt plus ten more loaded with food for the journey back. Joseph sends them off like a mother hen, “Then he sent his brothers away, and as they were leaving he said to them, ‘Dont quarrel on the way!'” Ge 45:21-24. Rather than revenge and hate winning, goodness and love do. And the goodness is so thorough, Joseph even gives them permission to stop hating themselves and to rejoice instead in God’s plan, in his goodness to them, Ge 45:5, 24.
No one could invent this kind of extravagant love and unearned grace except God. He’s the one who throws the party after the prodigal comes home, the one who cooks breakfast on the beach for his disciples after they desert him, the open armed, all-is-well, gift-giving brother. It sounds too good to be true, but when I see it, when I get a taste of it as I do today, it resonates.
Isn’t this the kind of love we’re looking for?
God let’s hungry folks feast at the wedding supper of the Lamb, rest under Jesus’ easy yoke, hear God’s “well done,” because Jesus took the hit for us on the cross. We get God’s good plans, his riches beyond our imaginings, his presence within us, his promise to remember us, and all of it, before we’ve even thought to ask for it, because it was purchased with Jesus’ blood more than 2000 years ago, Re 19:7, Mt 11:30, 25:23.
All we do is turn to him and say we want in? Pretty much. Because it doesn’t depend on us, it depends on him, “for he satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things,” Ps 107:9. And “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame,” Ro 10:11.
There’s nothing like extravagant grace to bring forth extravagant praise…and worship…and repentance…and change.
God’s love never fails.
The disciples tell Jesus it’s getting late, and he needs to send the crowds away to buy themselves food. But Jesus says, “They don’t need to go away. You give them something to eat,” v 15-16.
I’ve always thought Jesus was being a little snarky here with an attitude, like, “Do I have to do everything?” But Jesus’ response is always appropriate, so I’m guessing that’s not right. He must want to teach them something.
Jesus often takes them aside and gives them the footnotes on what his parables mean. I wonder if his time with his guys was really more about training them as future church planters than it was about healing and teaching large crowds of people.
Because there are a lot of people he doesn’t get around to heal. If he was here mainly to relieve the poor and weak, he sure leaves a lot of folks unattended, often walking past the masses to attend to a leper or one bleeding woman.
When I read his words in light of this idea, that Jesus’ ministry was more about training his disciples than it was about evangelizing and healing the locals, it opens up. Jesus is saying something like, “We’re a team. This is your job as well as mine. You do your part, and I’ll do mine, but we have to work together. You have a little—a loaf, a few fish. Bring me what you have, and I’ll multiply it beyond your imagining, and you’ll turn and share it with everyone else.”
Here was maybe their first experience cooperating with Jesus’ ministry. He teams up with them to miraculously feed a large crowd of more than 5000 from a few loaves of bread and fish. Their part is to find somebody’s lunch, bring it to Jesus, and pass out the pieces. Jesus does the rest.
Jesus teaches them a pattern for how they’ll do this sort of thing spiritually speaking after he’s gone: they give Jesus what they’ve got, and they pass around what he gives them.
Jesus can take the gifts of any of us and multiply them to feed others. Though they may be as small as loaves of bread and fish, in Jesus’ hands, they can feed thousands.
Satan likes to accuse. He says, “You’re just one person. What can you do?” But Jesus says to each of us, “You give them something to eat.” Surely if he commands us, he will enable us.
“I guide you in the way of wisdom
and lead you along straight paths.
When you walk, your steps will not be hampered;
when you run, you will not stumble.
Hold onto instruction, do not let it go;
guard it well, for it is your life.”
God guides us and keeps us from falling. We hold onto what he teaches and guard it.
How? By finding his instructions and living them.
Why? Because it’s life giving.
There’s just no getting around the basics: we read his words and we pray to live.
My take away today is the simple, surprising truth that you let us help feed the world, sharing the good news of your love with everyone who wants it. You could reach out without us, but you choose to use us. This humility of yours is hard to understand. When I’m doing a task, I don’t want a lot of little “helping” hands.
But you do. You bring us in. You let us be part of what you’re doing in the world. It feels good to be part of something bigger than myself, even if all I do is pass around baskets.
You used Joseph’s tragic story to feed his family and his people and ultimately bring about the saving of all mankind. And who was he? Nobody. Just a shepherd boy in Canaan. Amazing how little he had when he got to Egypt–exactly nothing–and how you raised him up and provided everything he became.
The instruction of Proverbs—to hold onto your words because “they are your life”—reminds me that this is what we have to put in a basket and pass around. Your words are what feed folks. Thanks for letting us help.
Here are my loaves and fishes, Jesus.
Multiply them, if it pleases.
Use them as you wishes.