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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Sunday, March 17, 2019              

Today’s Scripture Reading | Genesis 28:10–22

Israel sent Judah ahead to Joseph to lead the way before him into Goshen. When they came to the land of Goshen, Joseph made ready his chariot and went up to meet his father Israel in Goshen. He presented himself to him, fell on his neck, and wept on his neck a good while. Israel said to Joseph, “I can die now, having seen for myself that you are still alive.” Joseph said to his brothers and to his father’s household, “I will go up and tell Pharaoh, and will say to him, ‘My brothers and my father’s household, who were in the land of Canaan, have come to me. The men are shepherds, for they have been keepers of livestock; and they have brought their flocks, and their herds, and all that they have.’ When Pharaoh calls you, and says, ‘What is your occupation?’ you shall say, ‘Your servants have been keepers of livestock from our youth even until now, both we and our ancestors’ —in order that you may settle in the land of Goshen, because all shepherds are abhorrent to the Egyptians.”

So Joseph went and told Pharaoh, “My father and my brothers, with their flocks and herds and all that they possess, have come from the land of Canaan; they are now in the land of Goshen.” From among his brothers he took five men and presented them to Pharaoh. Pharaoh said to his brothers, “What is your occupation?” And they said to Pharaoh, “Your servants are shepherds, as our ancestors were.” They said to Pharaoh, “We have come to reside as aliens in the land; for there is no pasture for your servants’ flocks because the famine is severe in the land of Canaan. Now, we ask you, let your servants settle in the land of Goshen.” Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Your father and your brothers have come to you. The land of Egypt is before you; settle your father and your brothers in the best part of the land; let them live in the land of Goshen; and if you know that there are capable men among them, put them in charge of my livestock.” (NRSV)

As I read this familiar story there is almost a sense of inevitably about what happened. In many families with more than one sibling or, for that matter, in many intimate small groups, feelings of anger and hurt can arise from perceived favoritism or injustice.

This reading picks up the story after Joseph has recovered from his mistreatment by his brothers and is a leader second in line to the pharaoh in Egypt. Ironically Joseph is now in a position to help his family survive the conditions of a brutal famine. He chooses to forgive his brothers and makes it possible for them to move to Goshen where there is plenty of food.

But the story doesn’t end there. The brothers are to meet with the pharaoh and at that time the pharaoh will question them regarding their occupation. Joseph instructs them to be true to themselves and say they are shepherds (an occupation that isn’t well regarded in Egypt). The meeting with the pharaoh has a positive ending when he asks the brothers to choose five to care for the pharaoh’s own flock.

The message I hear in this passage is that it is important to be true to myself and that it is important to forgive those who have wronged me.

Loving God, reflecting on the experiences of my journey, my heart is smiling because I feel unbelievably blessed. Thank you! Amen.

Written by Barbara Timberlake, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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