Fearing God


Fearing God

Genesis 42:1–28

Joseph’s Brothers Go to Egypt

When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, “Why do you keep looking at one another? I have heard,” he said, “that there is grain in Egypt; go down and buy grain for us there, that we may live and not die.” So ten of Joseph’s brothers went down to buy grain in Egypt. But Jacob did not send Joseph’s brother Benjamin with his brothers, for he feared that harm might come to him. Thus the sons of Israel were among the other people who came to buy grain, for the famine had reached the land of Canaan.

Now Joseph was governor over the land; it was he who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground. When Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he treated them like strangers and spoke harshly to them. “Where do you come from?” he said. They said, “From the land of Canaan, to buy food.” Although Joseph had recognized his brothers, they did not recognize him. Joseph also remembered the dreams that he had dreamed about them. He said to them, “You are spies; you have come to see the nakedness of the land!” They said to him, “No, my lord; your servants have come to buy food. We are all sons of one man; we are honest men; your servants have never been spies.” But he said to them, “No, you have come to see the nakedness of the land!” They said, “We, your servants, are twelve brothers, the sons of a certain man in the land of Canaan; the youngest, however, is now with our father, and one is no more.” But Joseph said to them, “It is just as I have said to you; you are spies! Here is how you shall be tested: as Pharaoh lives, you shall not leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here! Let one of you go and bring your brother, while the rest of you remain in prison, in order that your words may be tested, whether there is truth in you; or else, as Pharaoh lives, surely you are spies.” And he put them all together in prison for three days.

On the third day Joseph said to them, “Do this and you will live, for I fear God: if you are honest men, let one of your brothers stay here where you are imprisoned. The rest of you shall go and carry grain for the famine of your households, and bring your youngest brother to me. Thus your words will be verified, and you shall not die.” And they agreed to do so. They said to one another, “Alas, we are paying the penalty for what we did to our brother; we saw his anguish when he pleaded with us, but we would not listen. That is why this anguish has come upon us.” Then Reuben answered them, “Did I not tell you not to wrong the boy? But you would not listen. So now there comes a reckoning for his blood.” They did not know that Joseph understood them, since he spoke with them through an interpreter. He turned away from them and wept; then he returned and spoke to them. And he picked out Simeon and had him bound before their eyes. Joseph then gave orders to fill their bags with grain, to return every man’s money to his sack, and to give them provisions for their journey. This was done for them.

Joseph’s Brothers Return to Canaan

They loaded their donkeys with their grain, and departed. When one of them opened his sack to give his donkey fodder at the lodging place, he saw his money at the top of the sack. He said to his brothers, “My money has been put back; here it is in my sack!” At this they lost heart and turned trembling to one another, saying, “What is this that God has done to us?”

Matthew 14:34–36

Jesus Heals the Sick in Gennesaret1

When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. After the people of that place recognized him, they sent word throughout the region and brought all who were sick to him, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.

One of the “Christian phrases” that unsettles me is that the Bible is an instruction book for life. The truth is, the Bible is a lot more than just that, and if we reduce it down to a set of rules to follow, we have left grace in the dust and have started on a path of works righteousness and/or philosophy of secret wisdom. The Bible is a history of God’s relationship with the Jewish people, culminating in His incarnation in Jesus Christ, and then followed by God’s redeeming work through the Church and promised return. Within that, there are laws, stories, teaching, analogies, allegories, comedy, tragedy, politics, and prayers.

That said, there is a kind of thread that comes out in two very important places in scripture and then weave themselves through the whole Bible. These are the beginning of Proverbs and the end of Ecclesiastes – the sort of “bookends” of wisdom literature found in the middle of the Bible. They say:

Proverbs 1:7

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;

fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Emphasis mine)

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God, and keep his commandments; for that is the whole duty of everyone. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.” (Emphasis mine)

King Solomon is credited for writing both of these books. He is also credited as being the wisest man who ever lived (although there are multiple opinions on this matter). Regardless of where he ranks, I find it significant that King Solomon chose to begin and end his teaching on wisdom with one concept: The Fear of God. Tweet: King Solomon chose to begin and end his teaching on wisdom with one concept: The Fear of God.

Joseph may not have been credited with the wisdom of Solomon, but he learned the fear of God. If he learned nothing else in his journey from favored son, through the well, into the dungeon, and back up into the light of the day as a ruler of Egypt, he learned that God was in control and he was not. Ironically, this was the same faith that the sick and wounded had when they came to Jesus. They knew Jesus could help them when they could do nothing. He was in control and they were not. Beggars and princes are all in the same boat with Jesus.Tweet: Beggars and princes are all in the same boat with Jesus.

Our nation has been struggling with a desire for control for decades. We all have. Our instincts are to grab rather than give, to lash out instead of lift up with love. Those very words sound weak and sentimental though they echo Jesus’s own teaching about loving our enemies. Do we think Jesus is foolish and sentimental as well?

When do you feel helpless?

What experiences remind you that God is in control?

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  1. (Mk 6:53–56)

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