Sunday, January 21, 2007

Hangups → Tactlessness

Faced with famine, Jacob sent ten of his sons to Egypt to buy food. They are accused of being spies, and an Egyptian official questions them about their family. This official (actually their brother Joseph, incognito) insists that they bring their youngest brother on their next trip to Egypt.

They return home and eat everything they've bought; pretty soon it's time to go back to Egypt to buy more. They remind Jacob that they must take Benjamin with them.
But Jacob said, "My son will not go down there with you; his brother is dead and he is the only one left. If harm comes to him on the journey you are taking, you will bring my gray head down to the grave in sorrow."
Genesis 42.38
Now what is that about? It's OK for you to go down there, but not "my son"?? Besides Joseph, Simeon and Benjamin, Jacob had nine other sons and a daughter. What does he mean, "he is the only one left"?

What he means is that Rachel, his favorite wife, the only woman he actually wanted, bore him two sons, Joseph and Benjamin. Joseph is gone, and Rachel's only other son, who she died giving birth to, is Benjamin.

Doesn't Jacob realize that his ten other sons are still his sons?

Apparently not. Here's what I think: Jacob was indulging in some self-pity here. He was thinking about the things that had gone wrong with his life. Listen to him in verse 36: You have deprived me of my children.... Everything is against me! It's hard to be upbeat when you're tired and hungry. Fatigue makes cowards of us all, according to Yogi Berra.

Still, I don't think it unfair to say that Jacob should have thought a little about the positives as well. He should have remembered to remember how God brought him safely to the land of his relatives, prospered his flocks and herds, protected him from Laban and Esau (both more powerful than he), gave him visions of angels, and so on.

Though I've not lost any children, haven't suffered famine, haven't had a close relative threaten to kill me and so on, I do sometimes feel tired (or worse) and forget God's blessings. And then I can be an anti-blessing, as Jacob was here to his (other) sons.

May the Lord call us back to him when we start to drift off, and may we listen and respond, so that we can be a blessing to those around us, rather than the opposite.

posted 1/23

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