Summary: Recognizing our redeemer changes our relationships, attitudes and actions. Lessons from Egypt and Emmaus
20181218 Parsha Vayigash – Recognizing the Redeemer
This week’s Parsha is Vayigash. That means “He approached”. In the last Parsha we saw Joseph coming to power in Egypt. Egypt was just about the most powerful nation in the world at that time. Joseph was the number two man there after interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams. He was elevated to the position in order to implement a plan that would mitigate the effects of a coming famine that would devastate the Middle East in 7 years. During the first seven years of this plan, Joseph built enormous storehouses and taxed the produce of the Egyptian farmers. The tax was in the form of grain which was collected and stored in the huge granaries.
After seven years of great harvests, the drought and famine set in. Joseph’s father Jacob and his eleven brothers were living in Canaan making a living as shepherds. When the drought began there was no food accumulated for them since they were shepherds and not farmers. Also, God’ plan for 7 fat years followed by 7 years of famine had not been revealed to them. Therefore, after a year of famine, Jacob and family were out of food. Their flocks were in bad shape. There was simply not enough grass to support all the flock. As is the case when drought strikes, the flock is diminished through natural attrition and reduced birthrates.
Eventually, Jacob realized that they had to do something or die of starvation. They heard that there was food in Egypt so, Jacob sent ten of his sons to Egypt to buy grain. Joseph immediately recognized his brothers but kept it to himself. Joseph would have been dressed like the Egyptian Prime Minister that he was. He had been in Egypt for 17 years and spoke to his brothers through an interpreter.
Joseph tested his brothers through a series of events in order to see if they were still the same as they had been 17 years earlier. They would talk among themselves not knowing that the Egyptian ruler in their midst was their own brother. Joseph would just sit back and listen. After several tests Joseph couldn’t go on. He had to tell them who he was.
There were several things that happened to the brothers when they were reintroduced to their long-lost brother.
Their association changed.
What I mean by association is the way they associated with Joseph. Their relationship changed. Before they were afraid of Joseph. Because of Joseph’s position in Egypt and their need for food, the brothers were extremely dependent upon the good graces of the Egyptian Ruler. The tests devised by Joseph were more reason for fear among the brothers, because they thought they would be imprisoned or executed as a result of the various accusations against them.
Remember Joseph’s dream? The brothers would bow before him. Well they did exactly that. They had to bow before their younger brother.
So what happened when Joseph revealed who he was? Fear, panic, terror? I would imagine all of that when through their minds as they replayed that awful day 17 years earlier when they would have killed Joseph but sold him into slavery. They now realized that this could be a terrible day of judgment for them.
But it didn’t happen that way. Joseph wept before them. He called Benjamin to him and embraced him and cried. Joseph had a lot of emotion bottled up inside him. He then called his brothers to him. They all had a big group hug. I’m sure there were a lot of “I’m sorrys” blurted out.
The brothers went from being fearful supplicants to brothers of the ruler. Their relationship with this ruler of Egypt changed.
Their Attitude changed.
Before there was fear and dread. That fear was well placed in their minds because of the evil they perpetrated on Joseph. There was guilt from deeds long ago. All that was wiped away in a few moments of heartfelt repentance and forgiveness. The jealousy and envy was gone and replaced with brotherly love.
Their Actions changed.
No longer were the brothers plotting and scheming because of perceived slights. No more attempts to do harm to their brother. The brothers whose actions almost sent an innocent man to an early death and indeed sentenced their own brother to years of agony in an Egyptian prison, these men were changed.
Fast forward about 1800 years to 1st Century Israel.
A man named Yeshua who was thought by many to be the long-promised Messiah had been cruelly executed on a Roman cross. His disciples had scattered when he was arrested. His most vocal adherent, Shimon Kefa, had denied even knowing him.
Many had big hopes and dreams for Yeshua. He would certainly be the one who could rid Israel of the harsh rule of Imperial Rome. Why else would there be a Messiah? After all, wasn’t that what the Messiah was supposed to do?