Reuben was in a rush. Judah waited for Jacob. Reuben offered to kill his two sons if he failed to return with Benjamin. Judah offered himself accountable.
Jacob trusted Judah.
Enigmatic father – this seems to Reuben. Filled with irony; “it was Judah’s idea to sell Joseph” – but Reuben could never say that.
Yet in Judah, Jacob sees a man who knows what it means to have lost a son, two sons. He has known loss. He has known humiliation. He has forgiven and he has accepted forgiveness. He has known restoration.
Not innocent. Not naïve. Jacob somehow trusts this authenticity.
The strange unfolding of developments from the ten brother’s journey is too much for Jacob. He is running scared. He senses the forces that are aligning to deprive him of the last vestige of his beloved wife. He won’t let Benjamin go.
In the midst of this, Reuben shows himself to be the failed leader. He knows what must obviously happen. They must return. But he’s tone deaf, he offers to allow the killing of his own sons if he fails to return with Benjamin. Reuben imagines himself to be like Abraham, but he alone sees things this way.
It’s a stupid offer that serves no one. Little more than a verbal warranty from a used car salesman, Jacob doesn’t take him seriously. He won’t entrust Benjamin to him.
Power from integrity. Reuben lacks self-control. Because he would say anything, he isn’t heard.
“Do not be quick with your mouth…God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.”
It’s more than twenty years since they sold their brother into slavery. The guilt and shame they feel has never left them.
What a weight to bear. No way to unload the guilt. Always wondering if one day Jacob would find out. Always fearing the horror of exposure. Always knowing that somehow this gross injustice would be made right.
It’s pathetic. We were created for more than this.
The antithesis of freedom. Our guilt and shame enslaves us and sentences us to a life of distraction and objectification.
Break out of this. Get yourself free. Accept the gift and engage the moment.
In the same room for three days, so far away these brothers. Yet, like me, only a few words separate them from freedom.
God and love will prevail. God as love will prevail.
It is strange that Joseph’s plan changed. When he put the brothers into the prison he told them that one would be allowed to go and fetch the younger brother. But after three days, he changed from that plan and explained that all but one would be release to return, but that one must remain.
Three days – the number of perfection.
Whatever the case, Joseph’s purpose is to get Benjamin down to Egypt. This is the one thing that both plans have in common. But why?
Benjamin is his only full brother. Benjamin was too young to have been with the others on the day of betrayal. Benjamin is the only brother who has nothing to fear from Joseph.
Joseph is a man of plans and of execution. He gets big things done. It is clear that he has a plan, even though his plans are subject to refinement.
He is dealing well with what has been given, but actively bending and ordering his environment to his purposes.
God has given each of us power to make plans and to act. But meaning always flows from action.
The brothers kneel before him. Joseph remembers the dream foretelling that all of his brothers would kneel before him. But in the dream there were 11 brothers kneeling. Something isn’t right. Something isn’t complete.
It’s a vulnerable feeling. To be identified by the leader of a powerful nation as an enemy to the state. People don’t seem to stand so close. Separation, isolation, suspicion and the foreboding sense that something is definitely not right.
What’s motivating Joseph? He has hidden himself from his closest relations. A strange thought. Why doesn’t he just blurt out, “It’s me; your brother Joseph!”? That’s what I would do.
It’s a little hard to believe that there is sometimes wisdom in non-disclosure. Something profound in what is not obvious.
I pray Jesus come – but my eyes have yet to see him.
Closer than a brother, He is standing right beside.
There is a wisdom in non-disclosure.
The weight of seven years time accelerates past in a sentence. Years of plenty make one wonder; ‘could a famine really be coming?’
What would an eighth year of plenty mean for Joseph?
There it is, lurking. Never far away. Destroying presence, distracting effort, talking me out of what I know must happen in my life; talking me out of both my dreams and my gift to the world.
The great “What if” is perhaps the most deadly adversary you will ever meet.
Joseph’s sudden and immediate reversal of fortune strains comprehension. Pharaoh had an epiphany and he saw something in Joseph that transcended his own experience. He became convinced that the very spirit of God dwelt in him. Pharaoh’s actions make sense in no other way.
Of course, these sorts of things only happens in storybooks and bible stories. Life doesn’t really work this way.
Except South Africa really did elect a wrongfully convicted and incarcerated man as their president. Unembittered by the injustice of his experience, he served as that nation’s leader. And as a nation, they willingly chose to allow equal rights between races, and they voluntarily dismantled their nuclear weapons program. Something that outsiders never believed could happen.
Not that Nelson Mandela was a new Joseph. But in apprehending the meaning of his own life, I’ll bet he could associate with him.
Not that I am a new Joseph…..
We are all called to actualize our essence, to serve with every ounce of energy we can move through our personal process.
“Acting on God’s word” –
God reveals and the hearer acts.
Like most ancient tales, we are so familiar that we take them for granted. This morning I recognize that it is not obvious from the revelation that something should be done.
The interpretation of seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine could have been, “eat, drink and be merry for [in seven years] we die.”
In going beyond the actual interpretation and making clear the purpose of the revelation concerning the future of the nation, Joseph recognized the need for action. In these dreams he saw, not an unavoidable cataclysm, but instead the possibility of a saving response. His interpretation told him what has coming. He wisdom told him to take action. So his speech included an admonishment intended to provoke Pharaoh to respond.
I know; “So why would God bring a famine and then warn Pharaoh about it?” For that matter, “Why does God allow evil?” “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Next thing to know, we’ll be talking about infinite regressions.
For Joseph, revelation is the opportunity to act in order to shape the future.
So learn from it. Shape the future.
Date with Destiny.
This was the day Joseph always knew must come. Wonder what that felt like? From his youth, he knew that he would one day stand before Pharaoh. He was born for this moment.
Though still young, Joseph has matured. He has grown in experience into the challenge of leading a nation, of serving before powerful and serious men and women.
Like a champion on the day of his competition, everything he has experienced has prepared him for this moment. He knows what to do. He is surprised by nothing.
“He who waits upon the Lord shall renew his strength…”
Is this the day for you?
They say that ‘necessity is the mother of invention’. A need is satisfied only once it’s come.
Forgotten again, yet with his own dream in hand, Joseph knew what must come to pass. Thus, a renewed commitment to excellence in the day-to-day.
It is written: Do you see a man skilled at this work? He will serve before kings; he will not serve before officials of low rank…
At least not forever.