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Feast in the Midst of Famine

As the famine ravaged the land, and their supply of grain dwindled down, Jacob feared that his family would starve.  Therefore, he gathered his sons together and said, “Go back to Egypt and buy us a little more food.”

“Abba,” Judah replied sadly, as he gently gazed at the old man, who seemed to grow more and more frail, with each passing day, “The man was serious when he warned us, ‘You won’t see my face again unless your brother is with you.’  If you send Benjamin with us, we will go down and buy more food.  But if you don’t let Benjamin go, we won’t go either.  Remember, the man said, ‘You won’t see my face again unless your brother is with you.'”

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Jacob’s heart constricted, and he regarded each of his sons, before he finally settled his gaze on Benjamin, his youngest.  The heavy weight of pain that he had carried for years, seemed to grow heavier, as he contemplated losing yet another son, and tears flowed freely from his eyes.  “Why were you so cruel to me?” Jacob moaned.  “Why did you tell him you had another brother?”

“Abba,”  they gently replied.  “The man kept asking us questions about our family.  He asked, ‘Is your father still alive? Do you have another brother?’  So we answered his questions.  How could we know he would say, ‘Bring your brother down here?'”  It grieved all of them to see what the anguish their sin had brought to their father.  If only they could go back and change it all, but that wasn’t possible.

How long, O Lord, must others suffer for our sins?” Judah silently prayed, as he gently laid his hand on Jacob’s shoulder.  Guilt and shame washed over him, for his part in bringing his father to this piteous state.  The results of his and his brothers’ evil acts were far worse than they could ever have imagined.  His abba was wasting away, not because of the famine, but because of their evil act of jealousy.  No longer the vibrant man he had once been, their Abba was now a shell of his old self.  He had grieved for Joseph for more than twenty years, after Judah and his brothers had given him a death sentence, and now, they were asking Jacob to trust them with Benjamin.  Who could blame him for his fear?

Judah spoke tenderly 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.  If that happens, let me bear the blame forever.  Abba,” he earnestly said, “if we hadn’t wasted all this time, we could have gone and returned twice by now.”

Jacob sighed and prayed,  “Which is worse, Adonai?  Losing Benjamin to his brothers’ wicked schemes?  Or watching him, and my other sons and grandchildren die a slow painful death before my very eyes, due to starvation, because I’m afraid to trust You?”  Jacob blew out a deep, shuddering sigh, as he answered Judah,  “Alright.  If it can’t be avoided, then at least do this.  Pack your bags with the best products of this land.  Take them down to the man as gifts—balm, honey, gum, aromatic resin, pistachio nuts, and almonds.  Also take double the money that was put back in your sacks, as it was probably someone’s mistake.  Then take your brother, and go back to the man.  May El Shaddai give you mercy as you go before the man, so that he will release Simeon and let Benjamin return.  But if I must lose my children, so be it,” Jacob said, as he drew in a quivering breath, and clutched his right fist over his heart, which pounded rapidly.

The brothers immediately packed their belongings, with Jacob’s gifts and double the money, as soon as he announced his decision, and headed to Egypt with Benjamin.  They watched over Benjamin protectively, as they made their way to Egypt, lest any harm fall upon him.  As soon as they arrived, the brothers sought out the governor, and presented themselves to him.

When he saw Benjamin with them, Joseph’s heart soared within his chest, and he informed the manager of his household, “These men will eat with me this noon.  Take them inside the palace.  Then go slaughter an animal, and prepare a big feast.”  So his manager did as he commanded him, and led the brothers to Joseph’s palace.

When they saw that they were being taken into Joseph’s palace, his brothers were terrified.  “It’s because of the money someone put in our sacks the last time we were here,” they said.  “He’s going to pretend we stole it, then seize us, make us slaves and take our donkeys.”

Fearfully, they approached the manager of Joseph’s household, and said, “Sir, we came to Egypt once before to buy food.  But as we were returning home, we stopped for the night and opened our sacks.  Then we discovered that each man’s money—the exact amount paid—was in the top of his sack!  Here it is; we have brought it back with us.  We also have additional money to buy  more food.  We have no idea who put our money in our sacks.”

The household manager smiled at the brothers.  “Relax.  Don’t be afraid.  Your God, the God of your father, must have put this treasure into your sacks.  I know I received your payment.”  Then he released Simeon and brought him out to them.

All of the brothers rejoiced when they saw Simeon, and took turns hugging him and patting one another on their backs.  The manager then led them into Joseph’s palace and gave them water to wash their feet.  He also provided food for their donkeys.  Informed that they would be eating here, they prepared their gifts for Joseph’s arrival at noon.

An overwhelming array of emotions filled Joseph when he came home that day, and his brothers bowed low to the ground before him, presenting him with gifts from their (his) homeland.  He felt great elation as he looked at his brother, Benjamin, who knew nothing of their brothers’ treachery, and great nostalgia for his father and his homeland when his brothers presented their father’s gifts to him.  He also felt some doubt and misgiving at his brothers’ seemingly changed hearts.  Had their hearts truly changed?  Or was their professed shame for betraying him, merely a ruse?  After receiving their gifts, he asked the brothers, “How is your father, the old man you spoke about?  Is he still alive?”  With bated breath, he awaited their answer, and anxiously prayed for his father’s health.

“Yes,” they replied.  “Our father, your servant, is alive and well,” and they bowed low again.

After he expelled a breath of relief, Joseph again looked at his brother Benjamin, the son of his own mother.  Feigning ignorance, he asked, “Is this your youngest brother, the one you told me about?”  When his brothers acknowledged that this was indeed their youngest brother, Joseph was overcome with emotion.  “May God be gracious to you, my son,” he gasped, before he rushed from the room and raced to his private room.

Tears began to run down his face, as soon as he exited the dining room, and raced to his room.  Joseph quickly slammed the door behind him, threw himself on his cushions and wept with great misery.  How he longed to hold Benjamin in his arms and shower his love on him…  He yearned to see and hold his father again…  And, despite their betrayal of him, his heart ached to love and forgive his other brothers, but could he trust them again?  Finally, after shedding many tears, Joseph regained control over his emotions, washed his face, and returned to the dining room where his brothers and  his cohorts were gathered.  Then he ordered the meal to be served.

Joseph told each of his brothers where to sit, and amazed them by seating them according to their age, from the oldest to the youngest.  The waiters served Joseph and his Egyptian cohorts at his own table, and his brothers were served at a separate table, because Egyptians despised Hebrews and refused to eat with them.  Then Joseph filled his brothers’ plates with food from his own table, giving Benjamin five times as much as he gave his other brothers, and they feasted and drank freely with him.

Adonai had indeed blessed these errant sons of Jacob, by allowing them to feast in the midst of famine.  For the first time in the more than twenty years since their great sin against Adonai and their brother, Joseph, the brothers felt hope arise within them.  Could it be that He had seen that their hearts were broken and contrite?  Had they prayed to Him as their descendant, David, would do one day?

Psalm 51
New Living Translation

Have mercy on me, O God,
    because of Your unfailing love.
Because of Your great compassion,
    blot out the stain of my sins.
Wash me clean from my guilt.
    Purify me from my sin.
For I recognize my rebellion;
    it haunts me day and night.
Against You, and You alone, have I sinned;
    I have done what is evil in Your sight.
You will be proved right in what You say,
    and Your judgment against me is just.
For I was born a sinner—
    yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.
But You desire honesty from the womb,
    teaching me wisdom even there.

Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean;
    wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Oh, give me back my joy again;
    You have broken me—
    now let me rejoice.
Don’t keep looking at my sins.
    Remove the stain of my guilt.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God.
    Renew a loyal spirit within me.
11 Do not banish me from Your presence,
    and don’t take Your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
    and make me willing to obey You.
13 Then I will teach Your ways to rebels,
    and they will return to You.
14 Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves;
    then I will joyfully sing of Your forgiveness.
15 Unseal my lips, O Lord,
    that my mouth may praise You.

16 You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one.
    You do not want a burnt offering.
17 The sacrifice You desire is a broken spirit.
    You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.
18 Look with favor on Zion and help her;
    rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then You will be pleased with sacrifices offered in the right spirit—
    with burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings.
    Then bulls will again be sacrificed on Your altar.

 

© 2019
Cheryl A. Showers