Thoroughly Equipped: We Can’t, He Can

Today’s reading is Genesis 42:18-43:34, Matthew 13:47-14:12, Psalm 18:16-36, Proverbs 4:7-10

You have now officially hit the “habit forming day”.  I have been told that if you do something for 21 days, it becomes a habit.  How wonderful to have a habit of studying God’s Word!  What impact that can have on our families. What strength and peace that can bring to our lives—every detail, good and bad.  And another word … if you are not there yet, if you have had a “hit or miss” approach to reading the Bible, no worries.  This is not to be a judgmental activity, nor is it to gain approval of God or man.  It is for your encouragement and edification.  So, wherever you are in this journey, keep going!  And that is just what Joseph did in today’s study.  He just kept going with God.  He grew in integrity, humility, and trust.  And at just the right time he was refined enough to be used of God.  And God’s timing was perfect.

Joseph rightly interpreted Pharaoh’s dream.  It was a warning of a coming famine.  There would be seven years of plenty, followed by seven years of famine.  (See those holy numbers?  This was from God.) And so it was that the prisoner was suddenly thrust into the position of prince of sorts.  Joseph was suddenly in charge of all of Egypt.  Only God!  There were seven years of bumper crops and Joseph wisely planned and saved during that time.  And then came the famine.  But even in the desperate times of famine God had (and does have) a magnificent plan.  He was bringing a family back together.

I believe God is all about relationships.  It is for relationship that He created man and then brought him woman.  It was for relationship He sent His son, Jesus.  It was for relationship He orchestrated an incredible chain of events in the life of Joseph.  God is the Redeemer and He wants to use us to redeem and repair broken relationships around us.  That is how we can be like Him.  We were, in fact, created in His image; therefore, we need to become like Him in this area as well.  Look what He says in Isaiah 58: 9-12:

Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;

you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,

with the pointing finger and malicious talk,

and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry

and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,

then your light will rise in the darkness,

and your night will become like the noonday.

The Lord will guide you always;

he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land

and will strengthen your frame.

You will be like a well-watered garden,

like a spring whose waters never fail.

Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins

and will raise up the age-old foundations;

you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,

Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

We see that the famine pushed Joseph’s family right to him.  Jacob sent ten of his sons to get the grain, but kept Benjamin back for fear that something would happen to him.  This shows that Jacob still suffered greatly with the loss of Joseph.  And the brothers must have suffered greatly with shame, sin, and secrets.  Secrets are the heaviest burden to bear.  Joseph was now 30 years old.  Joseph was 17 when he was sold into slavery.  For thirteen years, they had all suffered.  And now in their minds, they believed they were suffering more due to the famine.  But God the great provider was about to end their physical and their emotional and spiritual hunger. Remember that God had told Jacob that He would be El-Shaddai for him–The “All Sufficient One”.  The One who was able and willing to supply His people with everything they needed.  It was no less true now, just because they couldn’t see or understand it for a season.

In Genesis 42:6 we find that Joseph’s prophetic dream was fulfilled.  His brothers bowed down to him and it was for want of grain, just as his dream predicted.

In today’s reading we see that after 3 days, (notice that holy number 3!) the plan of reuniting and redeeming and reconciling this family had begun.  In Genesis 42:21-22 we see a glimpse of Rueben’s character.  Remember that he was the firstborn and had many rights and responsibilities.  In Genesis 37:21 we see that Rueben succumbed to peer pressure.  Though he did suggest that the brothers not kill Joseph, it was his idea to put him in the cistern.  But through the years, Rueben had shifted the blame and the story itself had changed in his memory.

Speaking among themselves, they said, “Clearly we are being punished because of what we did to Joseph long ago. We saw his anguish when he pleaded for his life, but we wouldn’t listen. That’s why we’re in this trouble.”

Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy?” Reuben asked. “But you wouldn’t listen. And now we have to answer for his blood!”

Genesis 42:21-22

Later, when they all realized there was no way to survive unless they took Benjamin to see Joseph in Egypt, Rueben tried to make his wrongs right.

Then Reuben said to his father, “You may kill my two sons if I don’t bring Benjamin back to you. I’ll be responsible for him, and I promise to bring him back.”

                                                                                                  Genesis 42:37

But Rueben was not able to make his sin right.  He was not capable of wiping away his sin, even if he offered his sons as a sacrifice.  So what changed? What turned the story around? Judah, the fourth son, stepped up.  Judah did not offer to sacrifice his son if Benjamin didn’t return, he offered his own life.  He offered himself as a sacrifice.

Judah said to his father, “Send the boy with me, and we will be on our way. Otherwise we will all die of starvation—and not only we, but you and our little ones. I personally guarantee his safety. You may hold me responsible if I don’t bring him back to you. Then let me bear the blame forever.

                            Genesis 43:8-9

Now here is the important part.  Do you remember who Judah was?  Leah’s son.  She named him Judah, which means “This time I will praise the Lord.” In this instance Judah was reflecting the One who would later come through his lineage. It was through Judah that Jesus, the Savior, was born.  Judah stood up and offered himself to take away the sin and shame and suffering of his family.  He personally guaranteed it and was willing to bear the blame forever if he could not redeem the situation.  But of course, he could redeem it.  For the great Redeemer, the only Savior, was in his seed.

So what is the lesson for us?  We are like Rueben.  We sin, we shift blame, we try to make up for it in our own power.  Even if we offered our most precious possession, it still would not make things right.  We can’t obtain our salvation through striving, through our own sacrifices.  We can only obtain it through Jesus.  Only He can carry it.  Only He can make it right.

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