Genesis 42:18
The famine was part of God's plan to carry out his promise to Abraham (Genesis 15:13, 14). But it is not merely a fact in the historical preparation for what he was bringing to pass; a link in the chain of events leading on to Christ. We must look upon it as part of a series of types foreshadowing gospel truths. The famine was a step towards the promised possession, and has its counterpart in the work of the Holy Spirit. It represents the spiritual want of man; conviction of sin (John 16:8; cf. Romans 7:9), leading to know the power of Christ's work (Matthew 18:11).

I. The first step is CONSCIOUSNESS OF FAMINE; that a man's life is more than meat; more than a supply of bodily wants. It is realizing that he has wants beyond the present life; that in living for time he has been following a shadow. This knowledge is not natural to us. Bodily hunger soon makes itself felt, but the soul's need does not; and until it is known, the man may be "poor and blind and naked," and yet suppose that he is "rich and increased with goods."

II. WE CANNOT OF OURSELVES SUPPLY THAT WANT. Gradually we learn how great it is. We want to still the accusing voice of conscience; to find a plea that shall avail in judgment; to see clearly the way of life that we may not err therein. In vain we look one on another, seeking comfort in the good opinion of men, in their testimony to our upright life. In vain we try to satisfy ourselves, by promises to do better, or by offerings of our substance or of our work. In vain is it to seek rest in unbelief, or in the persuasion that in some way all will be right. The soul cannot thus find peace. There is a voice which at times will make itself heard - "all have sinned" - thou hast sinned.

III. GOD HAS PROVIDED BREAD. "I have heard that there is corn in Egypt" (cf. Romans 10:18), answers to the gospel telling of the bread of life. As to this we mark -

1. It was provided before the want arose (1 Peter 1:20; Revelation 13:8). The gospel tells us of what has already been done, not of a gift to come into existence on certain conditions. The ransom of our souls has been paid. We have to believe and take (Revelation 22:17).

2. How faith works. They must go for that food which was ready for them. To take the bread of life must be a real earnest act, not a listless assent. The manna which was to be gathered, the brazen serpent to which the sick were to look, the command to the impotent "Rise, take up thy bed and walk," all show that it is not enough merely to wish, there must be the effort of faith (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:3). This is a law of the spiritual kingdom. As natural laws regulate results within their, domain, so spiritual results must be sought in accordance with spiritual laws.

3. It is our Brother who has made provision for us. This is our confidence. He waits to reveal himself when in humility and emptiness we come to him, and to give us plenty (1 Corinthians 3:21, 22). - M.







For I fear God.
1. The first impression which the human mind receives from the conviction of an over-ruling Power, is that of fear. It is a moral impression. It is made upon the conscience. A feeling of awe at the thought of an invisible witness, who judges and will requite.

2. "For I fear God." The text begins with a word that connects it with something else; that supposes a reason for the assertion it makes. Why should we thus "fear" Him? Because He is present to every agreement that is made, to every promise that is spoken, to every purpose that is secretly devised, to every action, however silently done. Because He is holy, and "the righteous Lord hateth iniquity." Because He is mighty, and who can stand before His displeasure? Because He requires the duty by which we feel ourselves bound. Because He appoints every law, and chastises for its infraction. Because, if through that subduing veneration, that salutary dread, we hold fast our integrity and depart from evil, we are encouraged by His assurances, we are encompassed by His defence.

3. There are various ways in which these effects are produced upon the children of disobedience.(1) They fear the powers of the visible world, as if they were ready to betray or smite their delinquencies; as if their sounds might publish something concerning them, or their "arrows upon the string" had an aim towards them. The stormy wind or the voice of the waters may have a word to fulfil for their condemnation. The rustling leaf has a warning. The bare bough points. "A bird of the air shall carry the matter." There is a Greek story of a poet who, falling under the daggers of robbers, called upon some cranes who was flying overhead to avenge his death. While his name and fate were yet upon the public tongue, in a great assembly of the people — when in the vast theatre of Corinth, open to the sky, the solemn chorus and personation of the Furies were exhibiting the truth, that "there is no shadow of death where the workers of iniquity can hide themselves" — a flock of those noisy birds darkened and shook the air. A cry escaped from the assassins, who were present at the spectacle. Their detection followed, and their just death was added as the terrible conclusion of the sacred song, and fulfilment of its prophecy. The story may be true, for doubtless such things have been. And they illustrate one part of the fact, that the creation, even in its innocent objects and pleasant forms, is the enemy of those who will not make the Author of it a friend.(2) There are surprises of Providence, in disappointment, deprivation, pain. These are trials wherever they fall; but to persons sensible that they have given them the right to surprise, they are peculiarity full of dismay. Sudden accidents will occur. The usual order of our lives will be broken in upon by strange occurrences. Dangers springs up by the wayside. Sorrows invade the dearest neighbourhoods of our life. Many, like old Israel's son's, find a journey made to the south terminate into captivity, and have to bear "the burden of Egypt," while they were seeking for its corn. Wretched, indeed, if what they must suffer then admonishes them of their trespasses, and forces from them the confession, "We are verily guilty concerning our brother." But, without imagining any of these casualties and violent interruptions, and troubles that may come, there are others that must come. The God whom we "fear" deals with us in the slow course of His appointments, through the gradual changes of time and age. If He continues our days upon the earth, we must pay for the privilege by parting with many of their delights, feeling some unwelcome alterations, and witnessing more. The soul will have to retire further inward for its satisfactions or its repose, as remembrance out-measures expectation, and the veils of the flesh grow thin. When the world is declining, its weight greater and its pleasure less, will not everything appear departing from us, if the answer of a good conscience and a hope towards an immortal possession do not remain behind? To feel forsaken of God, or obnoxious to His judgments then! — is not that a dreary and terrible occasion of fear?

4. The several topics hitherto mentioned touch upon what is outside of us. They have been immediately connected with natural objects, or distressful incidents, or waning powers. But all these are only circumstances. The individual consciousness of every one dwells in the midst of them, and impresses them with a character of its own. Here is the true seat of the principle. Let each stand in awe of what is within him; of the judgments that are pronounced beyond mortal hearing, and executed through the habits, the fancies, the passions, the memories, of the mind itself. Are these habits depraved — these fancies disordered? Do these passions start away from holy motives? Do these memories condemn the past, that cannot be restored to be tried again and live better? The hostilities of nature the utmost rage of the air and sea, are nothing to this. Pain and misadventure are nothing. The wear and losses of encroaching years are nothing.

(N. L. Frothingham.)

Joseph punishes Simeon by imprisonment. It may be that he had reasons for it which we are not told. But when his brothers have endured the trial, and he finds that Benjamin is safe, he has nothing left but forgiveness. They are his brethren still — his own flesh and blood. And he "fears God." He dare not do anything but forgive them. He forgives them utterly, and welcomes them with an agony of happy tears. He will even put out of their minds the very memory of their baseness. "Now, therefore, be not grieved nor angry with yourselves that ye sold me hither," he says; "for God," &c. Is not that Divine? Is not that the Spirit of God and of Christ? I say it is. For what is it but the likeness of Christ, who says for ever, out of heaven to all mankind, "Be not grieved nor angry with yourselves that ye crucified me; for God, my Father, sent me to save your souls by a great salvation." My friends, learn from this story of Joseph, and the prominent place in the Bible which it occupies — learn, I say, how hateful to God are family quarrels; how pleasant to God are family unity and peace, and mutual trust, and duty, and helpfulness. And if you think that I speak too strongly on this point, recollect that I do no more than St. Paul does, when he sums up the most lofty and mystical of all his Epistles, the Epistle to the Ephesians, by simple commands to husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and servants, as if he should say: You wish to be holy? you wish to be spiritual? Then fulfil these plain family duties, for they, too are sacred and divine, and he who despises them, despises the ordinances of God. And if you despise the laws of God, they will surely avenge themselves on you. If you are bad husbands or bad wives, bad parents or bad children, bad brothers or sisters, bad masters or servants, you will smart for it, according to the eternal laws of God, which are at work around you all day long, making the sinner punish himself whether he likes or not. Examine yourselves — ask yourselves, each of you, Have I been a good brother? have I been a good son? have I been a good husband? have I been a good father? have I been a good servant? If not, all professions of religion will avail me nothing. If not, let me confess my sins to God, and repent and amend at once, whatever it may cost me.

(C. Kingsley, M. A.)

This fear should daily control every Christian. No influence on the feelings, or the character, can be more salutary. What greater preservative from wrong can there be in youth, than the constant presence of a parent, whose feelings we regard, whose opinions we respect, and whose judgment we reverence. And if the presence of a parent is so salutary in restraining us from transgression, how much more so must the impression be, that we act in the view of the Almighty? And how appropriate to the condition of an immortal being is the state of mind, which is described in the saying, "I fear God." "I fear God." I know He is here. He is everywhere. I cannot go from His presence, nor flee from Him. To live, and move, and be in the presence of so great and adorable a being, cannot but excite emotions of awe. It cannot fail, if rightly considered, to produce a salutary fear in the heart of every child of Adam. "I fear God." He knows all my actions. Not one of them has been concealed from His view. The sins of my childhood are known to Him. They are written in His book. The iniquities of my youth are kept in His remembrance. The transgressions of maturer years are not hidden from His eyes. No palliation nor excuse can cause Him to take a different view of them from that with which He beholds them. He understands my thoughts. "There is not a thought in my heart, but He knows it altogether." There is no operation of my intellect, which He does not readily perceive. The subterfuges, which a perverted heart, or a soul full of prejudice, cast over its own doings, do not conceal it from the Most High. He knows all my opinions. If interest, or the fear of man, or the pride of consistency shall influence me to give, as my view of facts or of truths, a sentiment at variance with what seems to me to be according to truth, He sees it all. He fully comprehends the hyprocrisy of the transaction, and abhors the iniquity. He knows my motives. He knows what it is in us that moves us to retain His Word in our families; what it is that influences us to come to His house; what it is that incites any of us to profess to be His disciples. He knows all our feelings. There is no affection in our hearts which is not entirely open to His view. I fear God; for He is holy. To some, it may seem strange that the holiness of a being should be a ground of fear. But there is no other consideration which invests the character of Jehovah with such fearfulness, as that of His holiness. And this is as true of those who are holy, as of those whose sinfulness exposes them to His indignation. No other trait is more prominent in the character of devout men, than the fear of God. And this reverential regard for Him does not abate, even when the soul becomes perfect in glory. When John had a view of the heavenly world, he heard them "sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, 'Great and marvellous are Thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are Thy ways, Thou King of saints. Who shall not fear Thee, O Lord, and glory Thy name, for Thou only art holy!'" "I fear God"; for He has a settled aversion to sin. This is His nature, and He is immutable — immutable in His attachment to holiness, and in His opposition to sin. Now, who that knows the holiness of Jehovah, and His constant abhorrence of sin, will not fear Him? Can a human being, who is convinced that he has violated the law of God — who understands that during many years he was constantly engaged in rebellion against Him — who feels, that even if he has been born of God, he has not been perfect, but is chargeable every day, in the view of Infinite Holiness, with many transgressions — can he live without fear? Considering the strength of his unsubdued propensities to evil, will he not be apprehensive that he may incur the displeasure of a Holy God? "I fear God;" for He inflicts severe chastisements, even in this life, on such of His people as wander from Him. "I fear God"; by Him I must be judged. All my deeds, my words, and my feelings, must pass His scrutiny and receive His sentence. Do you say, if I am a Christian, I ought not to fear? The Saviour has not thus instructed me. "I will forewarn you," said He to His disciples, "whom ye shall fear — fear Him who has power to destroy both soul and body in hell; yea, I say unto you, fear Him." In view of such a Judge, who will not fear? Now, if such a fear of God occupy our souls, then it will be impossible not to speak reverentially respecting Him. Again: If this fear of God be in us, we shall have a happy influence on others. Our conversation will evince that there is something in our hearts, which is not known to the world, nor felt by such as are alienated from God. Our lives will tell to all around us that there is something in the fear of God which is calculated to diffuse a heavenly savour over all cur feelings and actions. In ways innumerable — in ways which, it is impossible for us to describe, or others to see — a grace will distil on those around us like drops of the morning dew; and blessings of immeasurable value, and eternal duration, will descend upon them. Brethren — let the fear of God dwell at all times in your' hearts; for "to that man," said Jehovah, "will I look, who is humble, and of a contrite heart, and who trembleth at My word."

(J. Foot, D. D.)

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