Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Humanity in Sin Part 52: Second Journey to Egypt

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev.Dr.Stephen Tong on 27th April 2008 in Newton Life. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: Genesis 43

Jacob was unwilling to let Benjamin go after losing Joseph as Benjamin was the only son of the woman he loved that was left. He asked why they told the man in Egypt that they had another brother. Judah explained that the man kept asking about their family details, including their father. If Benjamin did not go, they would not go. At this time, nobody could follow Jacob’s order. Eventually Jacob released him, implying that he had given away all his hope.

When we come to the end of our lives, there is only one source of hope we have. That is that the Almighty God has grace on us. Within this hopeless situation, Jacob blessed his sons that the Almighty God might grant them mercy with the ruler in Egypt. These brothers who used to sin actively in their youth now had to passively go to Egypt because of hunger, which was in line with God’s plan. Above the will of men, the acts of men, is the power and sovereign will of God.

Nobody understood Joseph’s misery and loneliness. Pharaoh trusted him and his subordinates might envy him, but deep inside Joseph suffered a lot. Joseph’s steward brought the brothers to Joseph’s house while Joseph stayed to do his work and only came back during lunch hour to eat with them. This showed his responsibility towards his duty. He had enough power and position to be flexible with his work, and he was dying to reunite with his brothers, but he stayed faithful to his duty.

The brothers were very frightened when they were brought to Joseph’s house because they thought he would attack them and make them slaves. They did not trust the Egyptians. They forgot the blessings of their father Jacob before they left. They did not see it as a privilege to be brought to the prime minister’s house. They only looked at the bad possibility, their pessimism infected one another, not realizing that Jacob’s blessings upon them had come true. They had really been granted favor.

They thought they were arrested because of the money that was put back into their sacks. So they told the steward about it and begged to be given mercy. The steward assured them that he had received their silver and it was their God, their father’s God, who blessed them with the money. The steward had probably heard from Joseph about them, their father and testified about their God. He brought Simeon to them, who was in a good condition. So a lot of their worries were not founded. Problems are not worse than their worries.

The steward washed their feet and gave food for their donkeys to prepare them to eat with Joseph. When Joseph came back for the feast, the brothers gave gifts to him and bowed to the ground. That was exactly what he dreamed many years ago. They hated him and envied him because of that dream. Even his father could not accept the dream. But Jacob kept the matter in his heart while his brothers took the matter into their own hands to harm Joseph. The course of events showed that men’s will could not go against God’s will.

When he saw his brother Benjamin, he could not disclose his identity so he simply said, “God be gracious to you, my son.” But he missed him so much and felt so moved that he ran out to cry. Still wanting to keep his identity a secret, he came back and asked to prepare the feast. There were 3 tables, one for Joseph alone, one for the Egyptians and the rest for his brothers, because the Egyptians could not eat with the Hebrews.

But Joseph brought all his brothers to sit at his table, and arranged them to sit in order of age. It must have been puzzling to his brothers that the ruler of Egypt could accurately arrange them to sit in such order. He also gave Benjamin extra portion as his blood brother. With all these, the brothers still could not understand that this was Joseph.

Joseph was different from his brothers. He did not take revenge. He was calm and waited for the Lord. He submitted in all his sufferings and waited for God’s deliverance. The brothers always did things out of self-interest, sold him because of envy and came to Egypt because of hunger.

There are three motivations that would make us weak in life, that is to do something for money, for self, and for pleasing the rich and the powerful. But if whatever we do, we do it for the truth, for God’s glory and for building up other people, our lives will be strong and we will walk in the right direction.


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