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O Lord, we ask now that You give us grace; we need grace as we come to the reading and preaching of Your Word. I need Your grace that I would speak only what is true, what is edifying. Give me humility in myself and absolute confidence in Your Word. Give to all these Your people listening the ability not just to hear words and points and verses, but to hear the voice of Jesus speaking. Grant the gift of faith, that the seed of Your Word might fall on good soil. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Hopefully you have a Bible, if not you can grab the pew Bible in front of you, and turn to Genesis chapter 43. The first book in the Bible, Genesis, chapter 43. As we have, Lord willing, just a few more weeks in this series. We’re going to take chapter 44 after Liam Gallagher is here next week and then we’ll combine some chapters over a few weeks and be done part way through June. We’ve been in this book for two years I think, on and off.
Chapter 43. We’re going to read the whole section, 34 verses, and I’ll stop here and there and make a few comments so you can understand what’s taking place.
“Now the famine was severe in the land. And when they had eaten the grain that they had brought from Egypt, their father said to them, “Go again, buy us a little food.” But Judah said to him, “The man solemnly warned us, saying, ‘You shall not see my face unless your brother is with you.’ If you will send our brother with us, we will go down and buy you food. But if you will not send him, we will not go down, for the man said to us, ‘You shall not see my face, unless your brother is with you.’” Israel said, “Why did you treat me so badly as to tell the man that you had another brother?” They replied, “The man questioned us carefully about ourselves and our kindred, saying, ‘Is your father still alive? Do you have another brother?’ What we told him was in answer to these questions. Could we in any way know that he would say, ‘Bring your brother down’?” And Judah said to Israel his father, “Send the boy with me, and we will arise and go, that we may live and not die, both we and you and also our little ones. I will be a pledge of his safety. From my hand you shall require him. If I do not bring him back to you and set him before you, then let me bear the blame forever. If we had not delayed, we would now have returned twice.””
So you remember that they had gone once already, made the trip down south from Canaan to Egypt for the famine and they were able to purchase grain from their long-lost brother Joseph. He knows that it’s his brothers, they don’t know that it’s their brother Joseph. They think he’s dead and long gone, forgotten.
But now they come back and they had grain for a time but they’ve run out and the famine is still severe and Jacob says, “You need to go get more food,” but Judah says, “What we told you before. We’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting. We can’t go see him again. He won’t give us any grain and he may throw us all into prison. Remember, Simeon is still in prison, if we don’t bring back the youngest brother Benjamin.”
We see here the emergence of Judah over Reuben. At the End of chapter 42, remember Reuben, he’s the firstborn, Reuben had already said to Jacob, “Well, if I don’t bring him back, you can kill my two sons.” So Reuben had fulfilled the responsibilities that he should have done as a firstborn son, but Jacob wasn’t having any of it. We’re not sure why. Perhaps because Reuben years earlier had slept with one of his father’s servants, concubines, and so he’s not going to be the one who receives the promise and the blessing. So we see the emergence of Judah, who’s the fourth son, and he steps in and he says, “Hold me responsible.”
And you see how he talks on the one hand respectfully to his father, they’re not going to go back unless their father will release Benjamin to go with them, so their father has some measure of authority, and yet he has to speak very plainly to say, “We’re going to die. We are going to die if we don’t go and get food and you don’t allow Judah [sic] to come with us.”
So Judah, part of what’s happening in this chapter, is Judah is assuming this leadership position. And of course, as we saw several weeks ago, the promise will go with not the firstborn, but with Judah, and ultimately the Messiah will be a line of the tribe of Judah.
We continue, verse 11.
“Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be so, then do this: take some of the choice fruits of the land in your bags, and carry a present down to the man, a little balm and a little honey, gum, myrrh, pistachio nuts, and almonds. Take double the money with you. Carry back with you the money that was returned in the mouth of your sacks. Perhaps it was an oversight. Take also your brother.”
You see here, he can barely even bring himself to say his name. Just, “Take your brother, arise, go again to the man.”
And then here’s his prayer: “May God Almighty grant you mercy before the man, and may he send back your other brother [Simeon] and Benjamin. And as for me, if I am bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.””
You’ll hear echoes of that centuries later when Esther goes and risks her life before the king and says, “If I perish, I perish.” Here Jacob is not very optimistic. He says, “I guess we have no other choice. Take Benjamin and if I have to lose Joseph and Simeon and Benjamin, then so be it.”
“So the men took this present, and they took double the money with them, and Benjamin. They arose and went down to Egypt and stood before Joseph.”
So we’re compressing a long journey here into one verse and now they’re back in Egypt to present their case and their gifts before the man, that is, Joseph.
“When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to the steward of his house, “Bring the men into the house, and slaughter an animal and make ready, for the men are to dine with me at noon.” The man did as Joseph told him and brought the men to Joseph’s house. And the men were afraid because they were brought to Joseph’s house, and they said, “It is because of the money, which was replaced in our sacks the first time, that we are brought in, so that he may assault us and fall upon us to make us servants and seize our donkeys.” So they went up to the steward of Joseph’s house and spoke with him at the door of the house, and said, “Oh, my lord, we came down the first time to buy food. And when we came to the lodging place we opened our sacks, and there was each man’s money in the mouth of his sack, our money in full weight. So we have brought it again with us, and we have brought other money down with us to buy food. We do not know who put our money in our sacks.” He replied, “Peace to you, do not be afraid. Your God and the God of your father has put treasure in your sacks for you. I received your money.” Then he brought Simeon out to them. And when the man had brought the men into Joseph’s house and given them water, and they had washed their feet, and when he had given their donkeys fodder, they prepared the present for Joseph’s coming at noon, for they heard that they should eat bread there.”
Well, this is going much better than they thought, and it’s about to get even better.
“When Joseph came home, they brought into the house to him the present that they had with them and bowed down to him to the ground. And he inquired about their welfare and said, “Is your father well, the old man of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?” They said, “Your servant our father is well; he is still alive.” And they bowed their heads and prostrated themselves. And he lifted up his eyes and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son,” so this is his, his very own full brother, his only full sibling, “and said, “Is this your youngest brother, of whom you spoke to me? God be gracious to you, my son!” Then Joseph hurried out, for his compassion grew warm for his brother, and he sought a place to weep. And he entered his chamber and wept there. Then he washed his face and came out. And controlling himself he said, “Serve the food.” They served him by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who are with him by themselves, because the Egyptians could not eat with the Hebrews, for that is an abomination to the Egyptians. And they sat before him, the firstborn according to his birthright and the youngest according to his youth. And the men looked at one another in amazement. Portions were taken to them from Joseph’s table, but Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as any of theirs. And they drank and were merry with him.”
There are many ways for family relationships to disintegrate, for family relationships to unravel, for families to be destroyed. There’s obvious ways in which families encounter hardship among each other – infidelity, someone has an affair, violence, abuse, addiction, anger, you can no doubt think of many others.
But here’s one less notorious, less criminal, you couldn’t be prosecuted for this in a court of law, but no less deadly and dangerous sin that can lead to the disentangling and the disintegrating of a family. It’s the sin of jealousy, or envy. I know sometimes people distinguish between those two and it is true envy is always a sin in the Bible. The Lord is called jealous sometimes. So there is a way, but I’m just using them in a very generic sense, interchangeably. When you want what someone else has, or you are pained by the thought that someone has what you don’t have. Isn’t it the case that families are often torn apart over time by jealousy?
Think of Jesus’ most famous parable, the parable of the prodigal son. Well, of course, that’s about God’s heart and desire to seek after that which is lost, but you realize it’s also about jealousy, because the prodigal went off, he squandered his inheritance and he made a mess of his life, but he came back and the father ran to him and was gracious to him and said, “Slaughter the fattened calf, we’re having a great big party, we’re having lobster bisque,” I don’t know, whatever fancy people eat, “And it’s going to be a great time.”
And the older brother is jealous. “What do I get? I get pb&j over here. What do I have to do to get a party?” He’s jealous of his brother.
You remember that moment, whether you’ve read the book or seen the movie, Little Women, where the youngest sister Amy is so jealous that her two older sisters get to go to the theater and she has to stay home and so she burns her sister Jo’s manuscript while she’s out. Kids, don’t burn things when the family’s out. Just good rule.
Well, what’s true in family life is true in all of life – jealousy is one of the great ruiners of relationships. Think of all the ways we can be jealous. You can be jealous of someone’s appearance. Remember that Beatle’s song that starts out “how does it feel to be one of the beautiful people?” and the chorus says, “Baby, you’re a rich man.” There’s probably somebody in your life that you look at like that. Well, it must be nice to be one of the beautiful people. Now if you think that when you look in the mirror, that’s another set of sermons, but if you think that about somebody else, you have that jealousy, how come they can’t put on any pounds? They don’t get any wrinkles. How come their hair is always beautiful? Why do they have muscles in the right places? They’ve got muscles on their muscles. How does that happen? You’re jealous of their appearance.
We can be jealous of people’s abilities. Why are they so good at, why are they so athletic? They’re so musical. They’re so smart.
Or the opportunities that come to us because of their ability. Why do they keep rising on the corporate ladder. Why do they have these platforms?
You can be jealous of people’s accolades, the compliments that they get, the awards.
Jealous of their affections. The affections that you wish they had towards you, or the affections that other people have towards them, maybe someone you want very desperately to love you and they seem to love him or her.
I’ve seen this before in pastoral ministry, and it comes often initially from a good place, sometimes people in ministry they are caring people, they love people, and they very much want to be there when people have needs, but a subtle sin can enter into the picture and because they want to love others, they also want others to love them. Sometimes pastors work themselves to burnout, or you may in your own life, because you want to be there for everyone’s need and there’s a little part of you that’s actually because you don’t want to allow that special space to someone else.
I had to learn that in ministry. You say, “Well, Pastor, I don’t know that you’re that caring. It wasn’t hard for you to learn.” But I did have to learn this, that if I wanted to be, you could either be the special person in everyone’s life and have like four relationships, or if you’re going to have more relationships, you have to allow that for a whole bunch of you, it’s Pastor Bruce, it’s Pastor Dave, it’s Pastor Mike, and that’s how it should be. You have to allow for other people to have their affections set in a special way on other people.
Or what about jealous for attention? It’s been said that with the rise of social media we have an attention economy. That’s how you make money. And the old adage is unfortunately sometimes true, “Any attention is good attention.” That’s how you get this, that’s how you get clicks, that’s how you get notoriety, and that’s how you make money. You want attention.
Or jealous of other’s possessions. Now, if you notice, I had all “A” words, “Appearance,” “Ability,” “Accolades,” “Affection,” “Attention,” so if you want you can call is “Assets.” But possessions, other’s people’s stuff. You love their house, you love their trips, you love their beach cottage. You love the things that they have. It’s so easy to be jealous. And here’s where jealousy is most poignant. It’s not for people far away, it’s for people close at hand. If you hear somebody else, who you don’t know who got some promotion somewhere, okay, fine. It’s when it’s the people in your class, it’s the people in your family, that’s when it’s very difficult. It’s the people who are close by, who seem to be living life with you but something seems to be going better for them.
Incidentally, moms, this is one of the reasons I think it’s so hard to be a mom, because whatever else you may do, when you’re a mom, all the other moms they got the same job.
Men, imagine if you had to live your whole life around everyone else who had the exact same job that you did. You’d have that sense of rivalry and ambition and how are you doing? Well, it looks like your job, you’re doing better…
Well, moms can have that because everyone has, who’s a mom, has the “mom” job. There’s bound to be that sense of jealousy, or the flip side, which is often feeling very unsure of yourself and feeling like maybe everyone else is doing it better.
Jealousy gets especially poignant when the benefits that someone else has seem to be unearned or unfair. You see, it’s one thing if you see somebody who goes ahead and they get a great scholarship, they get a great job, and you know they’ve worked really, really hard. Oh, good for them. It’s another thing when it seems to be sort of random, or without effort, or even worse, when it seems to be unfair and you worked very hard and they don’t work hard. You’re responsible, they’re not. You’re, they’re Goofus, you’re Gallant. Remember those back in the 80s? The little Highlight magazines and they had the cartoons, “Don’t be like Goofus, be like Gallant,” like any 6-year-old knew what those two words meant, but Goofus and Gallant.
And you feel like everyone else is getting something that they don’t deserve, someone is treated with favoritism. That’s often the flip side of jealousy. It goes along with favoritism. Don’t you feel this? Kids, students, young people, somebody gets more playing time on the team and you don’t think they deserve it. Somebody gets a better grade in the class because it seems like they’re teacher’s pet. Or adults, someone is moving ahead at work because they’re a friend of a friend of a cousin or they all went to Chapel Hill together or wherever they went. Boy, that just doesn’t seem fair.
Well, that’s jealousy. And it happens to all of us. It doesn’t just happen, it’s a sin in our lives.
This is what chapter 43 is about. In fact, I want you to have your Bibles open because I want to show you that this is a major theme in the entire book of Genesis. The book of Genesis, we’ll come back to this when we come to chapter 44, because there’s another pattern that I want you to see in two weeks, but realize the story of Genesis after the prologue, as it were, with creation and fall, the story of Genesis is framed by conflict between brothers. This is a book about blessing, promise, providence, all of that, and it’s also a book about family. Brothers in conflict: Cain and Abel, chapter 4, and then here chapter 37 through 50, joseph and his brothers. The book is framed by conflict between brothers.
More than that, I want to show you that the sin of jealousy often accompanied with favoritism is a constant theme throughout Genesis. So you can jot these down if you like to take notes or you can flip along with me just to see this.
Cain and Abel, chapter 4, verse 5: “But for Cain and his offering, the Lord had no regard, so Cain was very angry and his face fell.” There’s a lot of things going on here, but at the very least, it’s a sin of jealousy, “Why is my brother’s offering regarded and mine isn’t?” So Cain gets very angry, his face fell, so angry, so hurt, so jealous… The first homicide. He kills his brother.
Look at chapter 13, verse 6. There’s jealousy between Abraham’s men and Lot’s men. There’s too many of them and they have to decide where to go. Chapter 13, verse 6: “So the land could not support both of them dwelling together for their possessions were so great that they could not dwell together and there was strife between the herdsmen of Abram’s livestock and the herdsmen of Lot’s livestock.”
Implicit there, not explicit, but it’s a sense of jealousy, who has what. We’re too big to be together. We need to find some separate place to live.
More explicitly, turn to chapter 16, Sarai and Hagar, verse 4: “And Abram went into Hagar and she conceived and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress.” Ah, so this was Sarai’s idea, why don’t you try to have a baby with our servant, and so it works and as soon as it works, Hagar starts to pull herself up tall and say, “Well, it looks like who gets to have a baby around here? I do.” “And Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done to me be on you! I gave my servant to your embrace, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked on me with contempt… Abram said to Sarai, “Behold, your servant is in your power; do to her as you please.” Then Sarai dealt harshly with her.” It’s jealousy. “I got a baby, haha, and you shouldn’t treat me that way. I’ll treat you harshly. You leave.” It affects the holy family throughout the rest of their lives.
Turn to chapter 21. Again this same jealousy is now playing out with Ishmael and Isaac. So Ishmael’s the child born to Hagar, years later as Ishmael’s a teenager, now Sarah finally has Isaac, we read in chapter 21, verse 8, “The child grew and was weaned and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned, but Sarah saw the son of Hagar, the Egyptian, whom she had born to Abraham, laughing.” There’s some sort of contempt, some sort of derision. They’re not just joking around, there’s something that Ishmael is doing, making fun of, mocking, mistreating Isaac.
“So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman.” Again, jealousy. Big brother, now he’s finally got a younger brother, he mistreats and then Sarah says again, “I want Hagar, the Egyptian, out of here.”
Turn to chapter 27. There’s jealousy between Isaac and Rebekah. Now not jealousy toward each other, but as the favoritism plays out with their favorite sons. So we see in chapter 27, 1-13, and won’t take the time to read it, but you may remember that Isaac’s favorite son, he likes Esau because he brings him the game, the food, that he lives, where Rebekah’s favorite son is Jacob, and so Rebekah, verse 8, conspires with Jacob this plan to deceive her husband, their father Isaac, and trick Esau out of the blessing. Because of that favoritism.
Then of course Esau and Jacob themselves, look at chapter 27 verse 41: “Now Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him.” Jealousy. How dare you, my conniving little brother. You stole this blessing from me and I hate you and I’ll kill you for it.
Of course, over many chapters we see the jealousy play out between Rachel and Leah, the two wives of Jacob. Look at chapter 29, verse 30: “So Jacob went into Rachel also,” remember Rachel was the one he loved, and their father Laban tricked Jacob so that he also married Leah, whom he didn’t love, and he worked some more and now he has two wives, and it says “he went into Rachel also, and he loved Rachel more than Leah.”
The favoritism that Jacob has toward his wives will spin out for the rest of their lives in jealousy back and forth between Rachel and Leah. So you see in verses 31 through 34, Leah has children. The Lord opens her womb. Rachel envies. Look at chapter 30, verse 1: “When Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she envied her sister.” Then verse 8: “Rachel said, “With mighty wrestlings I have wrestled with my sister and have prevailed.” She called his name Naphtali.” When Leah saw that she had ceased bearing,” so now they’re back and forth, because Rachel has this plan, “Ah, I’ll have some children,” but she does it initially with her maidservant. So Leah, she stopped having kids, she says, “Okay, anything you can do I can do better. All right, Jacob, I want you to take my maidservant. I will prevail.” Leah responds.
Back and forth they go, moved by jealousy over one another. And Leah is jealous for what Rachel has, namely a husband who loves her. And Rachel is jealous for Leah has, namely children. And it tears the family apart.
Jacob and Laban. Look at chapter 31. “Jacob heard that the sons of Laban were saying, “Jacob has taken all that was our father’s, and from what was our father’s he has gained all this wealth.” And Jacob saw that Laban did not regard him with favor as before.” So there’s jealousy there. The descendants of Laban say, “Look, this man, this interloper from outside our realm, has come in and he’s married our family, and now he’s getting wealth.” So they go back and forth, who can out trick and out deceive the other.
Then finally in chapter 37, coming back to the Joseph story, we know that Joseph, how did he get into this predicament? It was because of family jealousy. Chapter 37, verse 11: “And his brothers were jealous of him.”
And one more occasion, perhaps, is to look at Jacob’s favoritism once again as he so blatantly favors Benjamin over Simeon. Did you notice in chapter 43 as the famine continues, who’s still in Egypt? They had to leave Simeon in prison in Egypt. It’d almost be comical if it wasn’t so tragic. Jacob, what are you waiting for? Don’t you care anything about Simeon? He’s languishing in prison. If we don’t go back, we can’t get him. But all Jacob can think about is, “Well, I’d rather give up Simeon than risk losing Benjamin.”
So by my count, and you could come up with a different count, but 10 different relationships marred by jealousy and/or favoritism in the book of Genesis: Cain and Abel, Abram’s men/Lot’s men, Sarah/Hagar, Ishmael/Isaac, Isaac/Rebekah, Esau/Jacob, Rachel/Leah, Jacob/Laban, Joseph and his brothers, Simeon and Benjamin. These 10 times we have God’s people torn apart because they are jealous for what someone else near to them has. Or someone else has shown favoritism and given them what they don’t deserve.
Which brings us to chapter 43. This chapter provides resolution to this book-long theme of jealousy. Because here there is one more test. And here it seems that God’s family, this chosen family, actually passes the test.
Let me show you what I mean. Go back to chapter 43. You see they bring a present, and this was in very in keeping with the Ancient Near East, you come to a ruler like this, you’re going to bring a present. Not only do they bring the money that was returned to them, and new money to buy new grain, they also bring a present of the fruits of the land. So back in Canaan they have some produce, what they don’t have is grain. They bring a present, chapter 43 verse 11 – balm, honey, gum, myrrh, pistachio nuts, almonds. The merchandise carried by the Ishmaelite caravan in chapter 37 is very similar. It lists gum, balm, and myrrh. In fact, that spice and that myrrh are only mentioned twice in the Old Testament, in chapter 37 and in chapter 43. It’s a deliberate connection.
The brothers don’t know it, but I think Joseph might have known it. When he receives the present, the very same spices and ointments that were there on the camels and the Ishmaelite traders bringing him down to Egypt 20 years ago, it must have dawned on him how ironic. I’ve seen these gifts before. We’ve come full circle.
And indeed, they have. Joseph is going to put them to the test. Did you notice in verse 33, it seems strange at first until you realize what’s going on. They sat before him, the firstborn according to his birthright, and the youngest according to his youth. In other words, Joseph sits the 11 brothers exactly according to their birth order. Now remember, they’re youngish to middle-aged men by now. Joseph is likely 37, Benjamin may be 35. That means the other brothers are in their 40’s or 50’s. It’s not so easy to just tell everyone apart when you’re middle-aged.
Now there’s nothing wrong with being middle-aged, I’ve come to realize.
So they look around, verse 37, at one another in amazement. They don’t say anything, they just look. Well, how did he know this? What sort of divine intervention? What are the odds of getting 11 brothers exactly in birth order? I can’t get my nine kids in birth order. He doesn’t even know us. He’s just met us. How does he line us up? They must have been thinking, I don’t know if he made nameplates or he just said, “Reuben,” and just went down the line, with each successive brother, they looked, surely, no, he got it again. He got it again. Right in order.
And then, already getting them to think, he wants them to think, “Who is this man?” Maybe he wants them to scratch their heads and say, “I wonder if he’s going to notice that we said there were 12 and there’s only 11. Is he going to ask more questions about the one who’s missing? The one whose name we’ve never mentioned. Is he going to say something here?”
And then Benjamin is given five times the portion of everyone else. So some people say, well, this is Joseph so overcome with emotion that he just piles on the food for Benjamin, and that could be, but I think there’s more to it than that. This is a part of his test. Remember back in chapter 42, verse 15, “By this you shall be tested.” Joseph explicitly said when he first encountered the brothers, “I am putting you to the test to see are you spies.” Now Joseph knew they weren’t really spies, but he wants to test is, “Are you honest men? Because last I saw you 20 years ago, you were not honest men when you sold me and left me off for dead.”
Do you see what Joseph is doing here? He’s once again giving them a test of favoritism and jealousy. What will you do when I seat you all, there’s the first, all the way down to the last, and the last brother gets five times as much as everyone else? He wants to test, have these men changed? Because, remember, what got Joseph in the pit in the first place? Same two things – favoritism, jealousy. His father’s favoritism for him, which prompted the jealousy of his brothers. So 20 years ago they abjectly failed the test and they would rather kill their brother, and now when they see it 20 years later, their response? “They ate, they drank, and they were merry with him.”
If anyone could have objected, surely it was Simeon. Wait a minute. He gets five? I’ve been pretty hungry in prison. You’ve been waiting a long time because my dad so loves Benjamin and now you’re finally here.
But the only record we have, their response is a good one. They said, “So be it. Now is the time to feast together.” In other words, Joseph puts before them, “Have you changed? Have you come to grips with the raging jealousy in your hearts, which tore our family apart and almost tore me apart limb from limb?”
But now the brothers take responsibility, they make restitution, they retrieve their brother from prison, they recognize God’s work, and they rejoice in all that they have been given. In short, they pass the test. They are no longer overcome by jealousy, even as they come face-to-face again with fraternal favoritism.
How did this change take place? Or let’s put it more directly – for you, whether you’re 5 years old in this room, because, kids, you struggle a lot with jealousy, or whether you’re 50, because you know what, adults? We struggle a lot with jealousy. How do you overcome this temptation to jealousy? Well, the answer is found in this text and it’s as simple to understand as it is hard to put into practice, the answer in one word – Grace.
Now you are all like, ahh, I wanted a secret. I could have guessed grace. But simple to understand, hard to put into practice. Let me show you grace in this passage, because very deliberately, grace is the theme of our song and grace is the theme of this passage. It shows up three times deliberately.
Look at verse 14. When they head off to Egypt, Jacob prays, “May God Almighty grant you mercy.” He prays for grace.
Then in verse 23, before they encounter Joseph again, remember they meet the steward. So Joseph is such a high ranking official he has other people to care for him. This is likely the same steward who had instructions with the sacks and the money earlier, this trusted man. And when the brothers are panicking, “Hey, look, we brought back the money and double, we don’t know what happened. We gave you the money. Somehow it ended up in our sacks.” Look at what the steward says in verse 23: “Peace.” All right. In the Hebrew it says “chillax.” “All right. Just all right, relax here, don’t be afraid. Your God and the God of your father put treasure in your sacks for you. I received your money.” He didn’t, but he says, “As far as I’m concerned, you don’t owe us anything. Your debts are paid. I’ve already received your payment.”
He spoke of God’s mercy. Jacob prayed, “May God Almighty grant you mercy.” The steward says, “Your God and the God of your father, He’s already paid, He already paid it forward. I don’t need any more payment from you.”
And then there’s a third occasion, and it’s with joseph, down in verse 29: “He lifted up his eyes, he saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son, and said, “Is this your youngest brother, of whom you spoke to me? God be gracious to you, my son!”” A deliberate answer to his own father’s prayer. The father prayed, Jacob prayed in verse 14, “May God grant you mercy before the man.” And now the man says, “God be merciful to you.” His compassion boiled over, you could translate. The only other place in the Old Testament this expression is used is that story where Solomon is showing his wisdom with two moms who are fighting over the one child and he says, “Well, we’ll just split the child in half,” and the mom whose child it really was, it says “her compassion boiled over.” It’s the only other time this expression is here. He is absolutely overcome with his love for his brother.
Mercy, mercy, mercy.
So here’s the lesson that the brothers were meant to see. Yes, Benjamin got more than you. Five times as much. Joseph gave to Benjamin five times as much food. Benjamin got more than he deserved, but here’s the lesson – you, my brothers, can you see that you also got so much more than you deserved?
Isn’t this what Jesus often taught in His parables? Think of Matthew 18, the parable of the unmerciful servant, who’s forgiven millions and millions of dollars and then when his servant owes him a couple thousand dollars, he throws him into prison. Don’t you realize how much you have been given?
Or even more explicitly, you think of the parable of the laborers in the vineyard. The man brings out the people and some of them come at the first hour and they have to work 12 hours, all through the heat of the day, and then the others come at different intervals. Some come at the very last hour. They work 1 hour, these people worked 12 hours, and when the foreman hands out, he gives each one a denarius, a denarius, that’s a day’s wage. The same payment to all of them, and those who came first were furious. Wouldn’t you be? Jesus is tricky like that. He gets us to feel sorry for the wrong people in His parables. Then we go oops, that’s me.
Because we want to cry out to the foreman, and to the owner of the vineyard, one of the first things you learn as a child, kids, you’ve said this before, parents, grandparents, you don’t have to teach your kids this, they just know it instinctively, they know how to say these words, just two words, no, three words: “It’s not fair.”
You don’t have to teach anyone that. Look, come here, granddaughter. Do you see? He’s got a toy that you don’t have. Let’s think about that right now. Let’s really, you don’t have teach people to see unfairness. You want to make a child happy? Give her a scoop of ice cream. You want to make her unhappy? Give her brother two scoops of ice cream. It doesn’t matter. They’ll throw that out. This is worthless, this one scoop of ice cream. What am I, a cat? What, you can’t feed me?
It’s jealousy. It’s the same thing with the laborers in the vineyard. We’ve been here 12 times as long, we get a denarius. The point that Jesus wants to teach them is what He wants to teach us – do I not have a right to do what I want with my own stuff? Doesn’t God have a right?
This is what Joseph, I think very deliberately, is teaching his brothers. All these years ago, you wanted to kill me because of your jealousy. Now what are you going to do when Benjamin, your youngest brother who just came up on this trip for the first time, gets five times as much? And it sure looks like they say, “We got our money back, we got grain, we got a feast with the second in command of Egypt. Go ahead. Pile it on for Benjamin.” And that’s the right response.
I leave you with three questions.
Number one – Do you realize all that you have is a gift? You got clothes? Yes, 100%. Good, thank you. You got stuff. We got a lot of stuff, most of us here in south Charlotte. A lot of stuff. It’s a gift. Yeah, you worked hard, you went to school, you did… It is a gift from God’s hand. You think there’s people in the world who have less? Yeah, just about everyone. You think they’re all worse people? No. It’s a gift. Do you realize everything you have is a gift?
Second question – Can you rest content in the gifts He’s given to others? That’s actually harder. First part, yeah, good reminder, yes, that you, God, I’ve got a lot of good things. Amen. I praise You. What if someone else has more? Can you rest content in the good gifts He’s given to others?
Then the third question, which gets to the heart. So do you realize all you have is gift? Can you rest content in the gifts given to others?
And third – Will you rejoice in the God of sovereign mercy? That God apportions His gifts as He sees fit. As soon as you cast an eye over at the Benjamins in your life, with five times as much as you think they deserve, God’s going to remind you the hard way that you got a whole lot of stuff you don’t deserve.
Can you and I rejoice in the God of sovereign mercy? The sin of jealousy is rooted in deficient theology. When we’re jealous, it’s not just a character flaw, personality quirk. It means we do not understand who God is. He’s a gracious God, He’s a generous God. Supremely so in Jesus Christ, forgiving us our sins when none of us deserved it. Promising us eternal life, giving us an inheritance above and beyond anything we could ask or imagine. You think you don’t have it good? You think God hasn’t been gracious to you? As He’s generous to you, let Him be as generous as He wants with everyone else.
Let’s pray. Our Father in heaven, we give thanks for Your Word, and we pray that You would give to us a mind and a heart to rejoice in Your sovereign mercy. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.