Israel The Tool That God Used!
If we can but grasp that Israel was the tool that God would use to bring about His divine purposes from this point forward in history, until time comes to an end sometime in the near future, then perhaps we can begin to comprehend the significance of what is about to happen in this Biblical narrative.
We have now moved from Egypt and Joseph, back to Canaan and Jacob. The great famine having now affected an enormous area, Jacob’s clan is in a bad way.
Jacob had a large family (46:26) and many servants; and as the famine continued, it became more and more difficult to feed them. Certainly the brothers knew what their father knew, that there was grain in Egypt, but they didn’t talk about it. Jacob noticed their strange attitude.
Famine in this part of the world normally involves a drought that extends for years. Only those with access to bodies of fresh water can survive. The Egyptians are perfectly positioned to use the Nile River to irrigate their crops during a drought. Most of the land of Canaan, on the other hand—where Jacob and his sons still live—has little fresh water even when there is no drought. Although some grain can be moved up and down the Nile or across the Mediterranean over established trade routes, the amount of grain needed to keep large populations alive cannot be moved across land or sea. So people have to go where the food is, or they starve to death. Israel knows he is out of options at home, so he has to look abroad.
Genesis 42:1 (NLT)
And, the first verse of this chapter we see Jacob, Israel, in a rather sarcastic mood, as he says to his sons:
“Why are you STARING at each other?”
In other words, you KNOW we’re in dire straits, you KNOW that there is grain available in Egypt, so why are you all sitting here waiting for SOMEBODY else to do something. Let’s remember, he was not speaking to children. These men were all middle aged and beyond, most with there own families’ children by now.
While I wish I could find some good and lovely things to say about Jacob’s sons, the tribes of Israel, the Bible doesn’t offer much about their character that is admirable at this point. God didn’t choose Israel because they were great men…He chose them because He is a great God and uses ordinary people to carry out His will.
And, by the way, we’re not told to stand with Israel because they’re a specially good or extraordinary or sympathetic race (which they’re not), we’re to stand with them because that’s what God has instructed all the people of this planet to do…with dire consequences for those who do not heed Him.
So, brace yourselves America: your president has now put his desire for a legacy of peace in the Middle East, regardless of the cost, ahead of his God-commanded concern for Israel. We are going to pay an awful price…every one of us.
So, Jacob, unable to wait any longer for these sons to do (on their own volition) what is right and necessary, orders all of them, except for Benjamin, to go to Egypt, to buy grain.
“I have heard there is grain in Egypt. Go down there, and buy enough grain to keep us alive. Otherwise we’ll die.”
Genesis 42:2 (NLT)
If Jacob had tried to do what his father, Isaac, did during the famine in his days (Genesis 26:12), it wouldn’t have worked. Isaac had a word from God to stay in the land and the Lord would bless him (Genesis 26:2-4). Jacob didn’t have that word. It was just natural for Jacob to go where the food was. The Lord used this to establish His plans for the nation of Israel.
There is always a balance between doing what is natural and following the Lord. It all boils down to what the Lord is saying. If we have a word from the Lord, we follow it regardless of carnal wisdom. If we don’t have a word from the Lord, we need to take practical steps to meet our needs.
So Joseph’s ten older brothers went down to Egypt to buy grain.
Genesis 42:3 (NLT)
Joseph’s brothers had no idea what was about to happen to them. But the Lord had planned this for twenty years. It would change all of their lives as well as the history of Israel.
Likewise, the Lord has plans for each and every one of us. We may be oblivious to them, but the Lord created us all with destinies. They don’t come to pass automatically, but through making ourselves living sacrifices and renewing our minds, we can experience His good, acceptable, and perfect will.
But Jacob wouldn’t let Joseph’s younger brother, Benjamin, go with them, for fear some harm might come to him.
Genesis 42:4 (NLT)
Was Benjamin not old enough to go?
Certainly he was. But, Benjamin had taken the place of Joseph in Jacob’s heart, because Benjamin and Joseph were his two sons through the wife Jacob loved the most…Rachel, now deceased. He simply wasn’t going to risk Benjamin, after having lost Joseph.
So Jacob’s sons arrived in Egypt along with others to buy food, for the famine was in Canaan as well.
Genesis 42:5 (NLT)
As the sons of Israel arrive in Egypt, they join in with many more tribes and peoples from other nations, all in need of being saved from starvation.
And, who is it they must go to for their salvation? Joseph.
Since Joseph was governor of all Egypt and in charge of selling grain to all the people, it was to him that his brothers came. When they arrived, they bowed before him with their faces to the ground.
Genesis 42:6 (NLT)
Verse 6 makes it clear that it was common knowledge that it was this great Vizier of Egypt…who was now going not by the name Joseph, but by the EGYPTIAN name the Pharaoh had given him, Zaphenath-Panea…. that everyone must go to in order to by grain.
Joseph must have had an immense organization to deal with the millions who needed food, and certainly it would have been rare for Joseph himself to deal directly with those who sought to buy grain.
Joseph recognized his brothers instantly, but he pretended to be a stranger and spoke harshly to them. “Where are you from?” he demanded.
“From the land of Canaan,” they replied. “We have come to buy food.”
Genesis 42:7 (NLT)
But, of course, Joseph’s brothers didn’t recognize him. It’s not just that 20 years had passed since they had last seen their little brother, and his boyish features had become manly; it was that he now looked Egyptian.
He was clean-shaven (Hebrews, by tradition, always wore beards); he wore his hair in Egyptian fashion and would have used certain cosmetics that Egyptian royalty typically applied to their faces…he also spoke Egyptian. And, the mannerisms of that former tent-dwelling boy with all of his teenage gawkiness had been exchanged for the refined and confident regal bearing that was now Joseph.
But…he recognized them right away.
And, we can only imagine what must have flashed through his mind upon seeing his brothers: deep pain, from being so long ago torn from his family at the hands of these same men.
To Be Continued…