Now the famine was still severe in the land.
I. The trial is one of CONSCIENCE. "We are verily guilty concerning our brother. "His blood is required." Face to face with one whom they supposed to be a heathen man, they are reproved. They have to tell facts which smite them with inward reproach.
II. The trial is one of HEART. To leave Simeon behind, to be afraid both for him and for themselves and for Benjamin. To be keenly perplexed and agonized for their old father. To be deeply wounded in the remembrance of their brother Joseph's anguish of soul and helpless cries for pity.
III. The trial is one of FAITH. "What is thin that God hath done unto us?" In the midst of all the roughness, and the fear, and the trouble there is still the feeling that they are being dealt with in some mysterious way by God himself, and there is a mingling of faith with their fear. Reuben again represents the better element in their character, and as they follow him they are led into peace. Joseph's smile is the smile of the loving heart which sometimes dissembles that it may reveal itself the more fully when the opportunity comes. He wept behind their backs. He was hiding the intensest love and the most abundant forgiveness and pitifulness, while he appeared to be a rough enemy. Still there were signs mingled with the harsh treatment that it was not all harsh. The sacks were filled with corn, and the money was returned. A deeper faith would have penetrated the secret. But those that have to be led from the feeble faith to the strong, have to be tried with appearances that seem, as Jacob said, "all against them. How often the believer says, All these things are against me," when he is already close upon that very stream of events which will carry him out of his distress into the midst of plenty, peace, and the joy of a healed heart in its recovered blessedness. Jacob poured out his natural fears and complaints, yet how little they were founded on truth. The son for whom he mourned yet lived and closed his eyes, and his gray hairs went to the grave in peace. - R.
1. Did he at length admit the necessity of making the sacrifice which he declared he would never make? Let us never be ashamed to retract any hasty and improper resolution which we have ever formed. And when we perceive how necessary it is to give up any idol, or any forbidden indulgence, let us not hesitate a moment to act upon our convictions. No delays are so dangerous as those which take place between the formation and the performance of a good resolution.
I. THE JOURNEY.
Go again, buy us a little food.I. His CHANGE OF RESOLUTION (vers. 11-14).
II. His PIETY THROUGHOUT.
1. His faith in God.
2. His honest principle.
3. It is no reflection on his piety that he changed his purpose.Consistent with the unchanging truth of God, with the eternal law of righteousness, we must and ought to be; but not invariably consistent with ourselves; for our goodness is imperfect, and we are liable to mistake and error. Instead of adjusting our present conduct to our former habits and thoughts, we should act upon our present convictions, leaving the present and the past to reconcile themselves as they may. It is only by looking continually to God, and not to ourselves, that we can walk sure-footedly in the present life.
(T. H. Leale.)
1. The resolve of Jacob to send at last his son Benjamin to Egypt. In this consent of Jacob we read a double instance of faith, faith in God and in man.(1) Faith in God; for he says, "God Almighty give you mercy before the man" (ver. 14). Faith has been well defined thus, "the heart to make ventures for God." He alone knows what real faith is, who has been compelled to lose sight of or to relinquish hold of those most dear to him, relying only on the mercy and eternal love of God. Faith is that which makes us hold and cling to God when nothing else is left for us to cling to; the grasp of the dying sailor to the mast, that is faith.(2) There was, besides, faith in humanity, in his son Judah, in one scarcely worthy of his confidence, for once at least he had proved treacherous. But it was better so, and it is better for us if we possess this faith in man.
2. Jacob's honesty (ver. 12). We are bound not only to return that which is ours unjustly, but also that which is ours by the oversight or mistake of others. But there is another way of looking at this act of Jacob's. It seems somewhat to savour of his disposition to mollify and appease his enemies by presents; as, when he dreaded the enmity of Esau, he sent presents to him, flattering him with the name of god. And if it be so, we find here that which tells, not of honesty, but of pliancy.
3. The change of Jacob's resolution in permitting Benjamin to go. At first we might be inclined to charge him with inconsistency, but the circumstances were changed, and the only choice now left him was between famine for them all and the loss of one son.
II. THE ARRIVAL IN EGYPT.
1. The fear of Joseph's brethren when invited to Joseph's house. They came dreading some misfortune. They were suspicious of Joseph's intentions. They could not but think that he wished to entrap them and make bondsmen of them. And this fear of theirs arose partly out of their own capability for a similar act of treachery. "Thus conscience doth make cowards of us all." It is the worst penalty of a deceitful and crooked disposition that it always dreads being overreached.
2. In the next place we observe the bowing down of the brethren before Joseph (ver. 26). This was an exact fulfilment of one of his early dreams, when the sun, moon, and eleven stars bowed down before him. But Joseph was now changed; he had been too much saddened by misfortune, and was far too much accustomed to Egyptian homage, to find any real pleasure in this, from which he had formerly expected so much. For us this is a pregnant example of the illusiveness of human life. Now that his dream was fulfilled to the very letter, he could not enjoy it.
3. We next observe Joseph's relief in the indirect utterance of his feelings. He asked, "Is your father yet alive, and your youngest brother?" &c. (ver. 27).
4. The feast of brotherhood.
(F. W. Robertson, M. A.)
2. Again, we must not attempt to procure the favour of Him who sits upon the throne of grace by any present that we have to bring, or any payment that we have to make. While we are willing to part with everything for the sake of Christ, we are not to bring anything as the price of our salvation, or to offer anything that we have, or anything that we can do, to recommend us to His favour.
3. Again, let us never forget that the desire for His salvation, and the broken and contrite heart which He has promised to accept, must come from God. The preparation of the heart of man is from the Lord. We must bring our heart when we come into His presence, and it must be upright and contrite if we would see His face in peace. But He only, who requires such a heart as this, can produce it for us.
4. For here, observe, the importance of a praying spirit is especially to be seen in Jacob's behaviour at this time. When he sent his sons away, it was with the humble and earnest petition — God Almighty give you favour before the man. Prayer ever was, and ever must be, the distinguishing mark of all the true sons of Jacob.
5. Lastly, Jacob at length determined to acquiesce in the appointments of Divine Providence, whatever they might be. So let every true penitent resolve to do, and he is certain eventually to be delivered out of all his fears.
2. The mistake on which the prayer is founded, which yet was acceptable to God. He prayed for the turning of the man's heart in a way of mercy; but the man's heart did not need turning. Yet Jacob thought it did, and had no means of knowing otherwise. The truth of things may in some cases be o concealed from us, to render us more importunate; and this importunity, though it may appear at last to have been unnecessary, yet being right according as circumstances appeared at the time, God will approve of it, and we shall find our account in it.
3. The resignation with which he concludes: "If I am bereaved, I am bereaved!" It is God's usual way, in trying those whom He loves, to touch them in the tenderest part. Herein the trial consists. If there be one object round which the heart has entwined more than all others, that is it which is likely to be God's rival, and of that we must be deprived. Yet if when it goes, we humbly resign it up into God's hands, it is not unusual for Him to restore it to US, and that with more than double interest.
(A. Fuller.)I. JACOB'S ENTREATY.
1. The occasion of it. Continuance of the famine. How dreary the prospect. Barren earth. Languishing cattle. Dry river-beds. The heavens as brass.
2. The character of it. "Buy us a little food."(1) "Buy." They had money. The money that was returned, and a little more. They probably took all they could well spare the first time, not thinking the famine would last so long, and intending to obtain enough to suffice till plenty was restored.(2) "A little food." It was all they could purchase with what money was left after they had restored the first purchase-money.(3) "Go again." He does not say a word about Benjamin. Did he think they had forgotten him; or that they would not press the matter? He speaks of food, not of Simeon or Benjamin.
II. JUDAH'S EXPOSTULATION. He at once assures his father that it is of no use except Benjamin goes too; and refuses to go without him, as a useless and perilous experiment.
III. THE BROTHERS' MEETING. They once more set out for Egypt. In due time they stand in the presence of the great lord. Joseph sees and recognizes Benjamin. Commands that a banquet shall be prepared in his own house. This new kindness filled them with new fear. They thought they were being ensnared, and would be sold as bondmen. Yet they had done to Joseph the very thing they feared to receive at his hands. Having had no opportunity of speaking to Joseph, they explain to the steward. He encourages them. Tells them not to fear. Reminds them of God's mercy. Joseph's present is therefore prepared, and they await the issue. In all this see how a guilty conscience destroys enjoyment of happy circumstances. If a man is right within, all will be right without; if he be wrong, all will be wrong. Learn:
I. To be thankful for plenty.
II. To pity the distressed.
III. Sin brings its own punishment.
IV. The brothers' meeting may remind us of our future meeting with our Elder Brother.
(J. G. Gray.)
If thou wilt send our brother. —
(G. Lawson, D. D.)
If it must be so now, do this. —1 Peter 5:3). Here you have an illustration of the apostle's precept, and the reason by which it is enforced. Jacob's sons submitted to their father in going down to Egypt, and their father complied with them in sending Benjamin along with them; and God crowned their designs with success, and gave them wonderful displays of His favour in the event of their journey. How was Jacob persuaded to comply with a motion so adverse to his feelings? Not by Reuben's, but by Judah's solicitations. Judah addressed his father in words of wisdom and meekness, He set before him the absolute necessity of parting with Benjamin for a time, and the great comfort to be expected in the issue. Far was he from reproaching his father for his manifest partiality to this favourite son, but he gave him full assurance that his partiality should be gratified, if possible and necessary; for when Judah became surety for him, he, in effect, engaged to stand between him and every danger; and this promise he did not fail to perform. Complain not, young persons, of tyranny in your parents, when the truth probably is, that you have not learned to treat with due reverence the fathers of your flesh. Do they refuse to comply with your wishes? Can you say with uprightness, that your desires were such as ought to have been granted? And if this has been the case, have you showed due respect to them in expressing your desires? and have you borne, with a meek temper, those eruptions of passion which disagreeable circumstances may sometimes produce, even in the best men? You see in the instances before us, "that by much forbearing, a prince" and a father "may be persuaded, and that a soft answer breaketh the bone."
(G. Lawson, D. D.)1. He acts prudently. He uses means of conciliation, and of bespeaking the good graces of the unknown ruler of Egypt.
2. He acts honestly. "The money that was brought again in your sacks, carry it again in your hands: peradventure it was an oversight." There are not a few who, in similar circumstances, would have been disposed to regard such money as, according to their cant phraseology, a God-send; and who would have thought no more about the matter. Not so Jacob. Before he would regard the money as his, or have his sons regard it as theirs, he must be at the bottom of the matter — he must have it accounted for, how came it there — he must know whether they can keep it honestly. Thus let all Christian transactions be regulated by the principles of high honour and sterling unbending integrity.
3. He acts piously. "And God Almighty give you mercy before the man!" When a human heart requires to be softened, and inclined to favour where there is seeming hostility, it is ours to do what we can, and to leave the result, by prayer and supplication, in the hands of God — of "God Almighty." How much more like himself does Jacob now appear; and how much more becoming an example does he set before his family!
4. He acts submissively. "If I be bereaved of my children, I am bereaved!"
5. He acts affectionately. It may be truly said of Jacob, as a father, that "even his failings leaned to virtue's side." We can account for them from causes that are in themselves good. But the point to which my observation tends, as many of you may anticipate, is this. How come we to be so much in earnest in seeking to propitiate a fellow-creature to turn away his displeasure, and to conciliate his favour, in order to avoid what harm, and to ensure what good, he may have it in his power to do us; while we are so careless about averting the wrath and obtaining the grace of a higher than the highest of created powers? — of Him, whose wrath is so infinitely more to be deprecated, and whose grace is so infinitely more to be desired and sought, than those of all the agents of evil or of good combined, in the world or in the universe.
(R. Wardlaw, D. D.)
Carry down the man a present. —Psalm 50:12). He has no need of our corn, or of our fruits, or of our money: and yet He has commanded us to offer to Him. There follow close after, in this same Psalm, the words, "Offer unto God thanksgiving, and pay thy vows unto the Most Highest." God ordered His people (Deuteronomy 26.) when they came into the land of Canaan to take at harvest-time a basket of the first-fruits, and give it into the hands of the priest before God's altar, and say, "A Syrian ready to perish, was my father, and he went down into Egypt with a few — and became great and mighty." So the people of Israel were to be reminded of this visit to Egypt and its consequences, for by "the Syrian, my father," is meant Jacob. Let us look again at our picture, and see what it will teach us. Joseph, we may be quite sure, was pleased with the present, not for its value in itself, but because it showed that those who brought it wished well. But what pleased him most was the coming of his brethren themselves. He wanted them very much, especially the little one. And there was great joy when he had them all together, and made himself known and embraced them. Joseph is here again a type of our Blessed Lord. That which, above all, He desires, over and above the gifts which He welcomes, is the heart of the giver. St. Paul tells us exactly what it is He seeks — "not yours, but you" (2 Corinthians 12:14). "He is not ashamed to call us brethren" (Hebrews 2:11), though we have treated Him worse than Joseph's brethren treated him; and though we may be us shabby and poor as probably Joseph's brethren looked in his royal palace in Egypt, our Lord Jesus Christ will be ready with His kiss and embrace for us. And when I tell you that He seeks "not yours, but you," I do not mean that He does not want your little offerings; He does for your sakes. What you can give, of course, is nothing to Him: but do not allow yourself to be tempted into saying, as grown-up people sometimes say when the harvest is not so plentiful, and they are poor, and "the times are hard," that we must leave giving to those who are well off. Jacob and his sons were poor enough — there was a famine in the land — and yet they sent the rich governor of Egypt a present, and see what a blessing came out of it. I find, as I read my Bible, that it is "the poor of this world, rich in faith," who become "heirs of the kingdom" (James 2:5), through their faith and liberality. And our Lord has told us why it is He likes us to offer to Him of our little: He says, "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also" (Matthew 6:21). He wants our hearts, and therefore He asks for our treasures. Let me give you an example. Only a few weeks ago I read a sad story in a newspaper. There were several young men, brothers, who went, I think, to Canada, and there worked very hard upon a farm out in the wilds, and earned a good deal of money. A man came to visit them, and persuaded them to trust him with their savings, saying that he would use it in the working of a mine which would yield them double their money in a short time. But one day they found out that this man was a rogue, and that he had spent all their money for nothing, and the news was so terrible a shock to them that they all went out of their minds. Their minds were all upon their money, and when that was lost they were lost. Learn, thin, as soon as you may, to lay up your treasure in heaven. Bring your little offerings to Jesus Christ,
"And what He most desireth,
Your humble, thankful hearts."
(Archibald Day, M. A.)
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