Tag Archives: anguish

Addressing the Elephant in the Room…

When his brothers got ready to leave Egypt, Joseph called the manager of his palace once again, and ordered, “Fill the men’s packs with as much food as they can carry, and put each man’s money just inside his pack.  Then, put my silver goblet just inside the youngest one’s pack, along with his grain money.”  The manager of the palace did as he was commanded.

The brothers left with their donkeys at daybreak, but before they were far from the city, Joseph gave this order to his palace manager, “Chase after those men and when you catch them, say to them, ‘Why have you repaid good with evil?  Why did you take my master’s silver cup that he uses to predict the future?  What you have done is evil!'”

So, the palace manager took off and chased them, and when he caught up with the brothers, he exclaimed, “Why have you repaid good with evil?  Why did you take my master’s silver cup that he uses to predict the future?  What you have done is evil!”

Joseph’s brothers were shocked at the man’s accusation, and replied, “Why do you speak this way, my lord?  We would never do such a thing, may heaven forbid it!  Don’t you remember?  When we found the money inside our packs, we brought it back to you from the land of Canaan!  So how could you think that we would steal silver or gold from your lord’s palace?”  Confident that they were guilty of no crime, they finished with, “If you find the goblet on any one of us, put him to death — and the rest of us will serve as your slaves!”

“No,” the palace manager replied.  “The one who has my lord’s silver goblet will be my slave, but the rest of you will be blameless.”  Then, each one of the brothers hurriedly placed his pack on the ground and opened them.  The manager searched each bag, starting with the eldest brother, and ending with the youngest, and he found the governor’s silver goblet where he had planted it, in Benjamin’s pack.

When the brothers saw this, they moaned and ripped their clothes in grief.  Each of them remembered their father’s fearful countenance, when he had finally allowed Benjamin to travel to Egypt with them.  Losing Benjamin, on top of his continued grief for Joseph, would kill him, and then, his death would be on their shoulders, too.  Each of them, except for Benjamin, who didn’t know of their sin against Joseph, realized their sins had finally caught up with them.  They believed that God’s retribution was finally upon them.  Therefore, each one quickly reloaded his donkey and returned to the city to face the governor.

Joseph was still in his palace, when Judah and his brothers arrived, and all of them fell down before him on the ground, trembling with fear.  Joseph was startled to see that all of them had returned, and he said, “How could you do this to me?  Don’t you know that I’m able to see into the future?”

Judah fearfully replied, “O my lord, what can we say?  There’s no way for us to prove our innocence.  God is repaying us for our sins, so here we are.  We have all returned to be your slaves, not just the one with whom my lord’s silver cup was found!”

Again, his brothers surprised him, and Joseph replied, “Heaven forbid!  I would never do such a thing.  Only the man who stole my goblet will be my slave, and the rest of you may go in peace to your father.”

Judah’s heart broke as he remembered both his father’s fear of losing Benjamin just as he’d lost Joseph, and the promise that he had made to protect Benjamin from harm.  So, he arose and beseeched Joseph, “Please, my lord!  May I speak freely with you, without arousing your anger?  For you are as powerful as Pharaoh himself.” 

At Joseph’s nod, Judah proceeded, “Do you remember when you asked us, ‘Do you have a father?  Or a brother?’  We truthfully answered your questions, my lord, telling you about our father, who is an old man, and about our youngest brother, who is a child of his old age.  We told you that this youngest brother also had a full brother, who is dead, and that he alone is all that remains of his mother’s children, and our father loves him greatly.

“Then, when you ordered us to bring our brother down to you, so that you could see him, we told you, ‘The boy can’t leave his father, for if he were to leave him, our father would surely die.’  When we told you this, my lord, you said that we would not see your face again, unless we brought our brother back with us, so we went back home to your servant, my father, and told him what you had said, and when our father told us to return to Egypt to buy some grain, we told him that we couldn’t.

“We said, ‘We can’t go down to Egypt again, unless our youngest brother is with us, because the governor won’t let us see his face without him.'”

Wiping tears from his eyes, Judah drew a deep breath, and continued, “Then your servant, my father, said, ‘You know that my wife bore me two sons.  The one left and never returned, for he was surely torn to pieces by some wild animal.  Now, if you take this son away from me too, and something happens to him, you will send this white-haired old man down to his grave with grief.’

“So, how can I go to your servant, my father, without his youngest son?  For his heart is bound up with the boy’s heart, and when he sees the boy isn’t with us, it will kill him.  If his heart is broken yet again, the grief will send our white-haired father to his grave, and it will be my fault.  For I, your servant, guaranteed my brother’s safety.  I told my father, ‘If I fail to bring him to you, then I will bear the blame forever.’

“Therefore, my lord, I beg you to let me stay as your slave instead of the boy, and let him return home to my father with our brothers.”  Judah sobbed, remembering Jacob’s pain when he lost Joseph, because of his and his brothers’ sin.  Now, more than twenty years later, his father still grieved for Joseph, and losing Benjamin would no doubt kill him.  “Please, my lord,” Judah pleaded, “allow me to stay as your slave, and let Benjamin return to our father, for I couldn’t bear to see his anguish, if I return without him.”

When he saw their compassion and discerned their repentance, Joseph could contain himself no longer.  He ordered his servants and attendants to leave the room immediately.  Then, when no one but his brothers remained, Joseph wept loudly, and revealed himself to them.  More than twenty years of torment were loosed with Joseph’s tears.  Indeed, he wailed so loudly, his entire household and even Pharaoh’s household heard his keening.

“I am Joseph!” he gasped in the midst of his wailing.  “Is it true that my father, Jacob, still lives?”  His brothers were so dumbfounded at the governor’s actions, that they couldn’t speak at first.  So, Joseph beckoned his brothers, “Please!  Come closer.”

elephant in the room 3

They approached him hesitantly, as fear and hope warred within each of them.  “I’m Joseph, your brother, whom you sold as a slave to Egypt,” he told them.  Their eyes widened in alarm, as the truth of their sin was finally exposed, and the elephant in the room was addressed for the first time in more than twenty years.  “Don’t be sad and angry with yourselves for selling me into slavery here,”  Joseph said, as the tears continued to flow down his cheeks.  He looked into the eyes of each of his brothers, who had betrayed him, starting with Reuben, the oldest, all the way down to Zebulun.  As he looked into each of their eyes, they at first tried to avert his gaze, but then they each looked back at him, and tears soon flowed from their eyes too.

Meanwhile, Benjamin stared at Joseph, completely enthralled by his brother, and filled with joy.  He couldn’t wait to share the good news with his father that Joseph, who had been lost to them for more than twenty years was found.  He couldn’t wait to see his father’s joy when he discovered that his son, whom he thought was dead, still lived!

Joseph grinned at him, then turned back to his other brothers.  “Don’t be sad and angry with yourselves for selling me into slavery here,”  Joseph said again, as he fully addressed the elephant in the room.  “For it was really God who sent me ahead of you to preserve your lives.  Indeed, the famine that has been over the land for the last two years will continue for yet another five years, and there will be neither plowing nor harvest.

“Don’t you see?”  Joseph asked.  “God sent me ahead of you to ensure that you will have descendants on earth and to save your lives in a great deliverance.  So, it was not you who sent me here, but God, and He has made me a father to Pharaoh, lord of all his household and ruler over the whole land of Egypt.”

Joseph drew closer to them and said, “Brothers, hurry up and go to my father.  Tell him that Joseph says, ‘Elohim has made me lord of all Egypt!  Come down to me and don’t delay!  You will live in the land of Goshen and be near me with your children, your grandchildren, flocks, herds and everything you own.  I will provide for you there, so you won’t be impoverished because five more years of famine are yet to come.’

Artistic close up of an African elephant in black and white

“Brothers, you can see with your own eyes see that it truly is me, Joseph, speaking to you.  Benjamin, you see with your own eyes that I am truly Joseph, your long-lost brother!  Now go,”  Joseph said, as yet more tears began to flow from his eyes.  “Tell my father how honored I am in Egypt and everything you have seen, and hurry up and bring him down here to me!”  Finally, Joseph gathered Benjamin into his arms, and wept as he embraced him.  Benjamin, too, wept into Joseph’s neck.  Joseph then kissed all of his brothers, washing them with his tears.  Then, Joseph’s brothers finally began to speak to him, and each one finally gazed at the elephant in the room, the horrible sin they had tried to bury, and addressed it…

If we acknowledge our sins, then, since he is trustworthy and just, he will forgive them and purify us from all wrongdoing.  (1 John 1:9 Complete Jewish Bible)

© 2019
Cheryl A. Showers

 

When All Hope is Gone…

The burden Joseph’s brothers carried on their shoulders, when nine of them, and not ten, left Egypt was crushing.  “How are we going to tell Abba that Simeon is now imprisoned in Egypt, and their governor wants to see Benjamin as well?”  Reuben choked out, as he fought back the tears that flowed freely from his other brothers eyes.  As the eldest brother, he had to be strong for the others.  “This could kill him!”

“I know,” Judah sighed.  “But perhaps El Shaddai will show him mercy.  For it was we, who sinned against Him, when we sold Joseph into slavery and death, not Abba.  This punishment should be ours alone.”

“Maybe,”  Levi said.  “But I’ve noticed that every time we sin against El Shaddai, everyone, even the innocent, ends up suffering.  Look at Abba.  He has suffered enormously since Joseph died, and look at Benjamin.  He certainly committed no sin, and yet, he too, has suffered.  Since Joseph’s death, Abba won’t let him out of his sight.  He smothers Benjamin in his grief.”

The brothers nodded in agreement, then fell silent, as they made their way home, with their donkeys.  They made camp by a river, as the sun began to set, and a few collected firewood, while others led the donkeys to the river to drink.  Then, after the donkeys had their fill of water, one of them opened his sack to get some grain for his donkey, and discovered his money on top of the grain.  He face paled, and he began to tremble, as he called for his brothers to come.  “Look!  My money has been returned; it’s here in my sack!”

Their hearts sank, as they gazed at the money in his sack of grain, and they, too, began to tremble.  Fear filled their hearts and minds, and they asked each other, “What has God done to us?”  But no one had an answer to that question.  Needless to say, no one slept well that night, and they were up before dawn.  They quickly packed their belongings, and were headed home, just as the sky began to lighten.

When the brothers got home to the land of Canaan, they went to see their father, Jacob.  There was no point in putting things off.  “Did you get the grain?”  Jacob asked, expectantly.

“Yes Abba,” Reuben spoke for the group, and continued, “but the man who is governor of the land spoke very harshly to us.  He accused us of being spies scouting the land.  We told him that we are honest men, not spies.  We said that we are twelve brothers, sons of one father.  We told him that one brother is no longer with us, and the youngest is at home with our father in the land of Canaan,

“Then the man who is governor of the land said, ‘This is how I will find out if you are honest men.  Leave one of  your brothers here with me, and take grain for your starving families and go on home.  But you must bring your youngest brother back to me.  Then I will know you are honest men and not spies.  Then I will give you back your  brother, and you may freely trade in the land'”

Tears welled up in Jacob’s eyes, as he gazed at his sons.  “He took Simeon?”  Jacob whispered and the brothers nodded, with their eyes downcast.  Then they opened their sacks, and everyone saw the bag of money, which they had used to pay for the grain, in each man’s sack.  Jacob began to wail, and he mournfully ripped his robe, as terror swept over him and his sons. Then he exclaimed to them, “You are robbing me of my children!  Joseph is gone!  Simeon is gone!  And now you want to take Benjamin, too.  Everything is against me!”

Reuben knelt down in front of his father, and the tears he had kept at bay for so long, ran down his face and into his beard.  He gently placed his hands on his father’s shoulders and waited for Jacob to look into his eyes.  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.”

Overwhelmed by grief and anguish, Jacob had lost all hope.  He had forgotten that El Shaddai, the All Sufficient God, cared for him and his sons.  He forgot the visions and dreams he had received from El Shaddai over the years.  He forgot the many times El Shaddai had provided for him and his family.  He forgot the promises El Shaddai had made to him, his father, Isaac, and his grandfather, Abraham, before him.  In his pain, Jacob was blind to the many blessings El Shaddai had given him.  He only saw what he had lost. “My son will not go down with you,” he spat at Reuben.  “His brother, Joseph, is dead, and he is all I have left.  If anything should happen to him on your journey, you would send this grieving, white-haired man to his grave.”

Beloved reader, have you ever felt such searing pain and loss?  Have you been so blinded by grief that you are no longer able to even see the many blessings God has given you?  I have.  When such agony envelops you, it is impossible to rise above it, as wave after wave of despair encompasses you.  But thanks be to God!  Even in the midst of our suffering, He is with us, ready to heal and deliver us from those broken places, if we will seek His face.  When we are overwhelmed with hopelessness and grief, let’s cry out to God, as this psalmist did:

Psalm 42
Complete Jewish Bible

Just as a deer longs for running streams,
God, I long for you.
I am thirsty for God, for the living God!
When can I come and appear before God?

My tears are my food, day and night,
while all day people ask me, “Where is your God?”
I recall, as my feelings well up within me,
how I’d go with the crowd to the house of God,
with sounds of joy and praise from the throngs
observing the festival.

My soul, why are you so downcast?
Why are you groaning inside me?
Hope in God, since I will praise Him again
for the salvation that comes from His presence.
My God, when I feel so downcast,
I remind myself of You
from the land of Yarden, from the peaks of Hermon,
from the hill Mizar.
Deep is calling to deep
at the thunder of Your waterfalls;
all Your surging rapids and waves
are sweeping over me.
By day Adonai commands His grace,
and at night His song is with me
as a prayer to the God of my life.
I say to God my Rock,
“Why have You forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
under pressure by the enemy?
10 My adversaries’ taunts make me feel
as if my bones were crushed,
as they ask me all day long,
‘Where is your God?’ ”

11 My soul, why are you so downcast?
Why are you groaning inside me?
Hope in God, since I will praise Him again
for being my Savior and God.

© 2019
Cheryl A. Showers

 

The Heavy Weight…

When Jacob’s ten eldest sons left Canaan for Egypt, guilt weighed heavily on each of them.  Foremost in their hearts and minds was the image of their father, so frail and old now, with fear for his youngest son, Benjamin etched in his face, as he refused to let him travel with them.  Their father had been such a strong and vital part of their lives, as he cared for them and their mothers over the years.  He had always had such a strong, unshakable faith in El Shaddai, but in the years since Joseph’s death, even his faith seemed to have failed him.

Nothing had worked out as they had imagined it would.  Their evil actions hadn’t brought them more of their father’s love, without Joseph there to steal it.  Instead, it had brought them more pain and loneliness.  Instead of earning their father’s undivided love, they had earned his fear and distrust, as well as a heavy burden of guilt, like a massive weight that threatened to break them, as they carried it with them everywhere they went.  Indeed, in the twenty years since they had sinned against their brother, Joseph, their burdens had only grown heavier.

When they entered into Egypt, they learned that they would have to ask Egypt’s governor to allow them to purchase the grain needed for their families to survive, due to the severity of the famine.  Therefore, they lined up, behind the others who had gathered to collect the much needed grain.  Finally, after waiting for many long hours, the ten brothers stood before the governor of Egypt, and immediately dropped to their knees and bowed before him.

Joseph, the governor, paled at the sight of his ten older brothers, bowing down before him.  He recognized them instantly, and caught his breath, as his heart pounded furiously within his chest. It felt like it might break free from his ribs.  As the lump in his throat grew, Joseph fought the tears that threatened to spill.  Looking at them now, bowed down before him, he couldn’t help but remember the dreams he’d had as a youth, in which, his brothers had bowed down to him.

Struggling to pull himself together, Joseph’s voice was harsh as he spoke to his brothers, “Where are you from?”

“We come from the land of Canaan,” they replied.  “We have come to buy food.”

Although he had immediately recognized his brothers, they didn’t recognize Joseph, and why should they?  In their minds, they imagined that he had probably died, or at the very least, was still a slave to a foreign master.  Joseph didn’t reveal himself to his brothers.  Instead, he pretended to be a stranger, and said to them, “You are spies!  You have come to see how vulnerable our land has become.”

How rigidly he must have held himself, so as not to break down in front of these brothers that he had loved as a child, only to be betrayed by them when he was just a teenager.  Beloved reader, have you known the pain of betrayal at the hands of a family member?  If so, surely you can understand how difficult it must have been for Joseph to maintain control of his emotions.  How conflicted he must have felt.  For, on the one hand, he loved these brothers, and he must have longed for news of their family.  Yet, on the other hand, he must have felt an intense explosion of rage welling up within him, to see his betrayers, for the first time in twenty years.

Proverbs 29:11
Complete Jewish Bible

A fool gives vent to all his feelings,
    but the wise, thinking of afterwards, stills them.

Fear gripped the brothers’ hearts, and they quickly responded to Joseph’s accusation, “No, my lord!  Your servants have simply come to buy food.  We are all brothersmembers of the same family.  We are honest men, sir!  We are not spies!”

Joseph continued his charade.  “Yes, you are!  You have come to see how vulnerable our land has become,” he insisted.

“Sir,” the brothers replied, desperate to make him understand, “there are actually twelve of us.  We, your servants, are all brothers, sons of a man living in the land of Canaan.  Our youngest brother is back there with our father right now, and one of our brothers is no longer with us.”

Still, Joseph insisted, “As I said, you are spies!  This is how I will test your story.  I swear by the life of Pharaoh that you will never leave Egypt unless your youngest brother comes here!  One of you must go and get your brother.  I’ll keep the rest of you here in prison.  Then we’ll find out whether or not your story is true.  By the life of Pharaoh, if it turns out that you don’t have a younger brother, then I’ll know you are spies.”

So, Joseph put them all in prison for three days.  How tormented he must have been, as all of the emotions that he thought were long gone, came rushing over him.  It was like reliving his brothers’ betrayal and brutality all over again.  How he must have cried out to ‘Elyon, to strengthen him, and give him wisdom.

Psalm 3
New King James

Lord, how they have increased who trouble me!
Many are they who rise up against me.
Many are they who say of me,
“There is no help for him in God.” Selah

But You, O Lord, are a shield for me,
My glory and the One who lifts up my head.
I cried to the Lord with my voice,
And He heard me from His holy hill. Selah

I lay down and slept;
I awoke, for the Lord sustained me.
I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people
Who have set themselves against me all around.

Arise, O Lord;
Save me, O my God!
For You have struck all my enemies on the cheekbone;
You have broken the teeth of the ungodly.
Salvation belongs to the Lord.
Your blessing is upon Your people. Selah

On the third day of their imprisonment, Joseph spoke to them again.  “Look, I am a God-fearing man.  If you do as I say, you will live.  If you really are honest men, choose one of your brothers to remain in prison.  The rest of you may go home with grain for your starving families.  But you must bring your youngest brother back to me.  This will prove that you are telling the truth, and you will not die.”  The brothers agreed to Joseph’s terms.

Speaking among themselves, the weight of their burden of guilt was evident, when 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.”

Tears ran down Reuben’s face, as he asked, “Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy?  But you wouldn’t listen.  And now we have to answer for his blood!”

His brothers, who still didn’t know Joseph’s true identity, had no way of knowing that he understood every word that they had spoken, for he had been speaking to them through an interpreter.  Upon hearing his brothers’ words, he turned and walked away from them and began to weep.  The emotions, and the weight he had been carrying for more than twenty years, was simply too much to bear, as his brothers openly spoke of his betrayal.

So deep was their own fear and anguish, that the brothers took no notice when Joseph turned away from them.  They were all lost in the midst of a storm that had been brewing for more than twenty years.  When Joseph regained his composure, he spoke to them again, and chose Simeon from among them.  He ordered Simeon to be tied up before their eyes.

Then, Joseph ordered his servants to fill his brothers’ sacks with grain.  He also gave them secret instructions to return each brother’s payment at the top of his sack, and he gave them supplies for their journey home.  So, although ten brothers had started on the journey to Egypt, only nine returned home, and the weight they carried grew heavier with each step…

© 2019
Cheryl A. Showers