Devotional & Reflection

Week 1, November 2004

Gen 42 :
Checking Out

By Pang Hee Hung, Katartizo Resources Ltd

Gen 42:1 When Jacob learned that there was grain in Egypt, he said to his sons, "Why do you just keep looking at each other?" v2 He continued, "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." v3 Then ten of Joseph's brothers went down to buy grain from Egypt. v4 But Jacob did not send Benjamin, Joseph's brother, with the others, because he was afraid that harm might come to him.
Gen 42:14 Joseph said to them, "It is just as I told you: You are spies! v15 And this is how you will be tested: As surely as Pharaoh lives, you will not leave this place unless your youngest brother comes here. v16 Send one of your number to get your brother; the rest of you will be kept in prison, so that your words may be tested to see if you are telling the truth.

In Gen 42, Jacob's family faced a possibility of starvation in view of the severe famine. Jacob had the presence of mind to tell 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). Although Jacob might not have realized it, it was a wise and God-directed decision.

This decision had a profound impact on all their lives and history in the years to come: Joseph was reconciled to his brothers and Jacob his father, Israel would multiply and become a great nation, Moses was born and he delivered Israel out of bondage and gave them the Law and the Ten Commandments. One would never know how much impact our God-directed actions may have when we simply live by faith.

By now Joseph had risen in power in Gen 42. There is something strange about power and fame; it has the ability to attract people, even strangers. Those whom you hardly speak with suddenly become very friendly to you. Joseph is, of course, no exception as he had control of all food supplies and foreigners from all over had to rely on him to supply them with grain if they wanted to live. Hence when “strangers” come to see Joseph, he had to test their motives.

When Joseph's brothers came to buy grain from him, he did something wise. He tested his brothers (Gen 42:15, 16) to check if they were telling the truth (Gen 42:16) and to ascertain if they had changed since the time of their attempted murder. His brothers had claimed five times that they were honest men (Gen 42:11,19,31,33, 34). But Joseph knew their past and was not sure of their honesty. So a test was set for them.

He could see the result of his test almost immediately. He heard his brothers talking amongst themselves; they did not realize that Joseph had understood them because Joseph used an interpreter when he conversed with them (Gen 42:23). Joseph could tell that his brothers were stricken with a guilty conscience and regret. Joseph wept when he heard them (Gen 42:24).

In this chapter, however, the focus seems to be on us applying the wisdom that God has entrusted to us - and to do what is wise. Jacob asked his sons to check out the grain situation in Egypt. Joseph checked out and tested the heart condition of his brothers. Likewise we check out the options to survive the economic fallout. We check out the person we want to employ or the spouse we want to marry. We also check out the heart condition and readiness of cell members before we place them with certain responsibilities ("They (The deacons) must first be tested" 1 Tim 3:10. "Do not be hasty in the laying of hands" 1 Tim 4:22). And the list goes on.

What things have God called you to Do? What are we to Check Out on?

1. What is one unwise thing you did?
2. What wise thing is God calling you to do?
3. How can we check out on our members' readiness (commitment level, growth stage, skills), personality, inclinations, heart condition and relationship with God, in order that we can help them to grow in their walk with God?
4. How can we check out whether their heart condition has genuinely changed?

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