October 19, 2014: Blessed 2 b a Blessing

Posted on : Oct 16th, 2014 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

Have you ever had someone treat you really badly or hurt you emotionally or even physically? What would you do if that person came to you begging you to save their life? That question is easier to answer when we think about it theoretically than when it actually occurs.

Anger and the desire for vengeance have a way of taking over our lives, influencing our actions and decision making. We all know we usually do not make healthy decisions when we are angry or acting from a place of hurt.

Joseph encountered this experience in his life’s journey. As we learned last week, Joseph went from “the pit, to prison, to the palace.” Tucked in the middle of this story are three verses of scripture that I almost cut from this week’s reading. They seemed unimportant and were filled with more of those hard to pronounce Biblical names. But then I realized those three verses speak volumes about how Joseph dealt with “the pit” and “the prison” experiences in his life. Here are the verses:

Prior to the years of famine, Joseph and Asenat, daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, had two children.   They named the first child, Manasseh, “The One Who Lets Us Forget” – because, Joseph said, “God let me forget all my troubles and my former home.” The second child was named Ephraim, “fruitful” – because, Joseph said, “God made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.” (Genesis 41: 20-52)

Skip the hard-to-pronounce names and focus on what Joseph shares in this brief story. First, he is married. He, a Hebrew, married an Egyptian priest’s daughter. That is a whole weird story in itself, but it was a huge “no-no” slightly later in Judaism. It wasn’t just interfaith marriage, it was marrying a pagan. It clearly states that Joseph and his family were multi-cultural.

But then look at the names of their children. That is the huge give-away!

Manasseh, “The One Who Lets Us Forget” – because, Joseph said, “God let me forget all my troubles and my former home.” The second child was named Ephraim, “fruitful” – because, Joseph said, “God made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.”

In three short sentences and through the names of two children, we learn how Joseph dealt with his horrible past. “God let me forget all my troubles and my former home.” “God made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.”

What Joseph never expected was that his brothers who had done him such harm, would come begging him to save their lives. Joseph’s family back in Canaan was starving to death due to the severity of the famine and they came to Egypt to buy grain. Joseph was the overseer (Chancellor) and the only one who could negotiate the sale of grain to non-Egyptians.

What would you do? How would you respond?

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a pacifist and teacher of non-violent systems of change once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is ‘What are you doing for others?’”

Joseph had to ask himself, “What am I going to do?” More on that this Sunday.

Blessings,

Dan

 

~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

Genesis 41: 46 – 42: 28

Joseph was thirty years old when he became chancellor under the Pharaoh, ruler of Egypt. When he left the Pharaoh, he made an inspection tour of the land of Egypt. During the seven years of plenty, the harvests were abundant. Joseph supervised the collection of the food grown in the fields in the seven years of plenty in Egypt and stored it in the cities. In each city he stored the harvested food from the fields around it. Joseph stored up huge quantities of grain, as much as the sand of the sea. It was so much that he stopped keeping records because the produce was immeasurable.

Prior to the years of famine, Joseph and Asenat, daughter of Potiphera, priest of On, had two children. They named the first child, Manasseh, “The One Who Lets Us Forget” – because, Joseph said, “God let me forget all my troubles and my former home.” The second child was named Ephraim, “fruitful” – because, Joseph said, “God made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.”

The seven years of abundance in Egypt came to an end, and the seven years of famine began, just as Joseph had prophesied. The famine spread to every country, but in Egypt there was food. When the whole country began to feel the famine, the people cried out to Pharaoh for bread. Pharaoh told all the Egyptians, “Go to Joseph and do whatever he tells you.”

When the famine had spread throughout the land, Joseph opened all the granaries and rationed their supplies to the Egyptians. The famine grew worse; soon people were coming to Egypt from all over the world to buy grain from Joseph, for the famine had grown severe throughout the world.

42: Now, when Jacob (Joseph’s father) learned that Egypt had grain to sell, he said to his sons, “Don’t just stand there staring at each other! I am told there is grain in Egypt. Go down there to buy some for us. Otherwise we will die of starvation.”

So ten of Joseph’s brothers traveled down to Egypt to buy grain there. Jacob did not send Joseph’s brother Benjamin with the others, for he feared some harm might come to him. So the children of Israel went to Egypt to buy grain, for there was famine in the land of Canaan.

Now as the country’s governor, Joseph himself sold grain to all buyers. So Joseph’s brothers came and bowed down before him, their faces to the ground. Joseph saw his brothers and recognized them, but he pretended not to, and spoke harshly to them. “Where do you come from?” he demanded.

They said, “From the land of Canaan, to buy food.”

Though Joseph recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him. He recalled the dreams he had had about them. He said, “You are spies! You came here to learn where our defenses are weak!”

“No, sir!” they replied. “We have come to buy food. We are all born of one man. We are honest people! We are not spies!”

“No!” Joseph maintained. “You have come to find our weaknesses!”

“We are twelve brothers, begot of one man, who lives in the land of Canaan. The youngest is now with our father; one other is no more,” they said.
Joseph said to them, “I’ll say it again: you are spies! I will test you: as Pharaoh lives, you will not leave here unless your youngest brother comes here. One of you must go and bring your brother to me. The rest will remain in prison until the truth of your words is tested. We will see whether there is truth in you or not.” Then he put them all in prison for three days.

On the third day Joseph said to them, “Follow my instructions and you will live, for I am God-fearing. If you have been honest, only one of your brothers needs to be confined in this prison; the rest of you may go and take the grain to relive the famine of your families. You will bring me your youngest brother. Thus your words will be verified, and you will not have to die.” They agreed to this arrangement.

To one another, however, they said, “Surely we are being called to account for our brother Joseph. We saw the anguish of his heart, when he pleaded with us, yet we paid no heed, and now this anguish has come to haunt us.”

Ruben, the oldest brother, said, “Didn’t I tell you not to harm the boy? You didn’t listen, and now we are brought to account for his blood.”

They did not know that Joseph understood what they had said, for he had been speaking to them through an interpreter. Joseph turned away from them and wept, but then turned back to them again. He selected Simeon and had him bound before their eyes.

Joseph gave orders to fill their containers with grain and to hide the money each had given Joseph to pay for the grain inside the sacks with the grain. Then they were given provisions for their journey. When this had been done, they loaded the grain on their donkeys and left. Stopping for the night, one of them opened a sack of grain to feed the donkey, and discovered the money in the top of his sack. “My silver has been returned!” he said to the others. “It’s here in my pack!” In panic and trembling they said to each other, “What has God done to us?”

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