11 Pentecost, Aug. 20
“When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, ‘Why do you just keep looking at each other?’ … ‘I have heard that there is grain in Egypt. Go down there and buy some for us, so that we may live and not die’” (Gen. 42:1-2). The question is a probing indictment of efforts to find daily bread and relief from poverty, both material and spiritual, simply by looking to one another or looking within. Unless Jesus comes and stands in the midst of his elect, they remain powerless to find what they need, hemmed in and constrained by fear (John 20:19). The bread we need is bread from heaven, bread for on high, a grace-perfecting nature. Go down to Egypt; go out to God.
The sons of Jacob must begin a long and deeply emotional encounter with failure, deceit, jealousy, treachery, and murder. They must face what they have done to their brother Joseph; they must feel the wound of memory. Joseph, in the course of years and according to providence, rose to greatness in the land of Egypt. God had given him the interpretation of Pharaoh’s dreams, an anticipation of plenty and famine in the land and a plan to set aside provisions for the time of want. The interpretation pleased Pharaoh, and so he placed set Joseph “in charge of the whole land” and vested him with near-regal power. “Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph’s finger. He dressed him in robes of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck. He had him ride in a chariot as his second-in-command, and people shouted before him, “Make way!’” (Gen. 41:42-43). The sons of Jacob, poor and famished, would find in their brother, whom they did not recognize, godlike power, majestic and fearful.
Yet Joseph loved his brothers, although they had betrayed him, sold him into slavery, and considered him as dead. Loving his brothers, he loved his enemies. His love was like Jesus’ love at Gethsemane, the cross, the grave, the resurrection. Joseph was deeply moved, grieved in his heart, loving as one who loves to the end and forevermore. Finally, in the presence of his brothers, Joseph “wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it and the household of Pharaoh heard it” (Gen. 45:2). “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt” (Gen. 45:4). “But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. … You shall live in the region of Goshen and be near me—you, your children and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and all you have. I will provide for you there, because five years of famine are still to come” (Gen. 45:5-11).
“Then he threw his arms around his brother Benjamin and wept, and Benjamin embraced him, weeping. And he kissed all his brothers and wept over them” (Gen. 45:14-15). “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity” (Ps. 133:1). And the cost is great. Joseph says, “It is my own mouth that speaks to you,” my mouth that kisses you, my voice that cries.
When, like the sons of Jacob, a Canaanite woman came to Jesus in all her need, Jesus was moved by her wit and faith. “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted” (Matt. 15:28). How good and pleasant it is when there is “a great oneing betwixt Christ and us” (Julian of Norwich, chapter XVIII).
Look It Up
Read Matthew 15:22. Ask for help.
Think About It
Ask for food.