Feast Freely

Genesis 43:26-34

26When Joseph came home, they presented to him the gifts they had brought into the house, and they bowed down before him to the ground. 27He asked them how they were, and then he said, “How is your aged father you told me about? Is he still living?” 28They replied, “Your servant our father is still alive and well.” And they bowed down, prostrating themselves before him.

29As he looked about and saw his brother Benjamin, his own mother’s son, he asked, “Is this your youngest brother, the one you told me about?” And he said, “God be gracious to you, my son.” 30Deeply moved at the sight of his brother, Joseph hurried out and looked for a place to weep. He went into his private room and wept there.

31After he had washed his face, he came out and, controlling himself, said, “Serve the food.” 32They served him by himself, the brothers by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves, because Egyptians could not eat with Hebrews, for that is detestable to Egyptians. 33The men had been seated before him in the order of their ages, from the firstborn to the youngest; and they looked at each other in astonishment. 34When portions were served to them from Joseph’s table, Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as anyone else’s. So they feasted and drank freely with him.

Best Restaurant

What’s your favorite restaurant? If I own one, I’ll call it “Best Restaurant!” Where’s the Best Restaurant? Coming soon! In Asia, when you are invited to eat or dine at a restaurant, it’s expected to be free meal. The inviter is expected pay for the food, unless it’s stated or agreed upon as pay for your food.

Here in North America, when you are invited to dine in restaurant, it’s the opposite. Each person expected to pay for his meal, unless it’s agreed upon that it would be free meal. What is the biblical principle of invitation to dinner?

It says in Proverbs 23:6-8, 6Do not eat the food of a begrudging host, do not crave his delicacies; 7for he is the kind of person who is always thinking about the cost. “Eat and drink,” he says to you, but his heart is not with you. 8You will vomit up the little you have eaten and will have wasted your compliments.

Send $50

There was a story of a woman who sent an email to everyone who may attend her party in Las Vegas. She detailed rules to be followed during their stay in Las Vegas. She emphasized to send her $50 dollars for groceries. One invitee cannot help but posted the email in her social media account, and the woman who sent the email threatened her with legal action.

Well, that’s an invitation that intentionally cares for her interest. There’s no intention of generous hospitality among friends and relatives. It is more like a social dining for a cause intended for solicitation or to make profit out of it.

Someone said: Food tastes better when you eat it with your family!”

When Joseph instructed that his brothers will eat lunch in his house, they were suspicious. Why? The first time they came to Egypt, they were treated very harshly and accused as spies. Why so generous, all of a sudden? What’s the catch of such hospitality? Nonetheless, they showed respect to the harsh ruler.

1. Show

26When Joseph came home, they presented to him the gifts they had brought into the house, and they bowed down before him to the ground. 27He asked them how they were, and then he said, “How is your aged father you told me about? Is he still living?” 28They replied, “Your servant our father is still alive and well.” And they bowed down, prostrating themselves before him.

In a hostile world, it is very advisable to show respect to anybody, not only because it is godly but to avoid undesirable confrontation. People might demand, “Earn your respect!” This generation demands authorities to earn their respect. That is the current general view about respect, and it’s very common concept.

The sons of Jacob were strangers in Egypt, and if they demanded that the harsh ruler should earn their respect, they would have been treated harshly even more. As believers, what is the biblical approach to respect of authorities?

It commanded in 1 Peter 2:17, 17Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.

Not just persons in authority but to everybody, and there’s no requirement of social status or age level but particularly, authorities should be respected.

Is it easy to respect authorities sincerely without hesitation? No! If it’s easy, God won’t bother to command us. The things that God commands are things we don’t naturally do. And truly, it’s really hard to show respect to abusive and harsh leaders. Additionally, many people, including believers, don’t want to be martyrs.

It requires godly wisdom to understand that to show respect requires godly effort because human tendency is to disrespect and resist harsh authorities.

To show respect to everyone, especially authorities, is a godly command.

It teaches us in Romans 13:1-5, 1Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

God commanded to show respect to authorities but our natural tendency is to defy and oppose authorities. That’s why it’s not easy, even church attendees, to obey godly commands like showing respect to authority.

If without pretension, reluctance or under compulsion but as believers, we respect authorities with peace and gladness, it testifies that Christ is active as Lord in our life. We can’t do such on our own. We rely upon Christ to obey God.

Do you respect authorities who are better, wiser, or smarter than you? God’s word says that no authority except that which God has established. And, it did not require us to respect only authorities that wiser or smarter than us.

Song for David

David was more strategic warrior than King Saul. When David led them, the Israelites never lost in battles while King Saul was scared to lead when Goliath was challenging all Israelite soldiers. Clearly, David was better leader than King Saul, but by faith in God, David showed respect to King Saul.

When David returned successfully from battle, Israelite women learned about his victory, and they sang a song. 1 Samuel 18:7 says, 7As they danced, they sang: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands.”

King Saul was envious because of that, and he tried to eliminate him. Can you respect a person who hates you? Only when we practice faith in God!

David did not even want that King Saul would be harmed. At one instance, while they were searching for David and his men, King Saul sensed urgency to relieve himself. He went in a cave where David and his men were hiding.

The men of David told him in 1 Samuel 24:4-7, 4“This is the day the Lord spoke of when he said to you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.’” Then David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. 5Afterward, David was conscience-stricken for having cut off a corner of his robe. 6He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the Lord.” 7With these words David sharply rebuked his men and did not allow them to attack Saul. And Saul left the cave and went his way.

David had multiple chances to neutralize King Saul, but he chose not to hurt him. He acknowledged that King Saul was the first king of Israel that God has anointed. He respected King Saul in spite of Saul’s animosity toward him. We may not like their lifestyle, how they behave themselves, the way they speak, but if we seek the Lord’s empowerment, we can respect authorities.

The Lord warns us in Psalm 105:15-19, 15Do not touch my anointed ones; do my prophets no harm. 16He called down famine on the land and destroyed all their supplies of food; 17and he sent a man before them—Joseph, sold as a slave. 18They bruised his feet with shackles, his neck was put in irons, 19till what he foretold came to pass, till the word of the Lord proved him true.

Joseph’s brothers interpreted his dreams that they will bow down to him which made them furious and cruel to him. His dreams were God’s revelation of His plan for Joseph’s greatness. His brother sold him as slave so that it won’t be fulfilled, but it’s also God’s strategy to prepare Joseph on the road to greatness.

Listen: If God has designed that you become great, nobody can stop it.

Our daily troubles are disguised as calculated trail to greatness.

Joseph saw his dreams fulfilled when his brothers bowed down before him.

2. See

29As he looked about and saw his brother Benjamin, his own mother’s son, he asked, “Is this your youngest brother, the one you told me about?” And he said, “God be gracious to you, my son.” 30Deeply moved at the sight of his brother, Joseph hurried out and looked for a place to weep.  He went into his private room and wept there.

The moment his brothers bowed and prostrated themselves before him, Joseph may have remembered his dreams, the cruelty of his brothers, the last time he saw his brother Benjamin. And at that very moment, they were bowing down to him in fear, and that included his younger brother Benjamin.

He was deeply moved at the sight when they bowed down to him, which may suggest that Joseph cannot appreciate when they bowed down to him in fear. Just like any loving brother, Joseph may have just wished that they would accept him as their brother, that’s all, and not as fearful and ferocious ruler.

Joseph may have seen a resemblance of himself when he saw Benjamin. He was 7 years older than Benjamin. Joseph was sold as slave at the age of 17, therefore, Benjamin was 10 years old the last time they saw each other.

Joseph was appointed Prime Minister of Egypt at the age of 30. There was abundance of food for seven years, and then, famine started. During the severe famine, there was shortage of food supply all over the world except in Egypt. In the second year of the severe famine Jacob’s sons went to buy grain in Egypt.

Approximately, Joseph met his brothers after 22 years. He was about 39 years old and Benjamin was 32 years old at that time. He recognized them but his brothers did not recognize him. Joseph was dressed as the Prime Minister of Egypt, and he may have talked to his brothers like an Egyptian. Although, he understood when his brothers spoke in Hebrew, Joseph had an interpreter.

When Joseph was deeply moved when he saw his brother Benjamin, it implies that the one reason that Joseph has been harsh to his brothers was to force them without pleading for them to bring Benjamin to Egypt. Joseph was a responsible ruler of Egypt. He could have told Pharaoh: “I would like to have a vacation to visit his family in Canaan!” but he did not. He prioritized his duty.

There is an interesting discussion whether taking vacation is biblical or not. Those who are in favor of vacation argue that the Lord had rested on the 7th day after creation. They also quote Mark 6:31, 31Because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

Truly, Christ took a break to rest. A timely break is helpful to recuperate or recover from exhaustion. Experts advise vacation as essential part of healthy life. How long? What do you do? Well, when coming from vacation, it feels tiresome, and you may want extended vacation. Some even got sick after long vacation.

How can vacation be helpful then? As children of God, plan for vacations that may bring glory to God, a vacation as expression of your faith in God.

If you use “Christ had a break” as premise, as biblical reason for vacation, is it not also proper to have biblical vacation plans? How? A vacation, leisure, or recreation inspired by the Lord is godly instrument to inspire us and others.

Taking vacation is also dangerous to practice of faith if you are not careful.

It says in 2 Samuel 11:1-3, 1In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army… But David remained in Jerusalem. 2One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, 3and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba!”

Most vacationers from Canada want to slack and relax at the beach where there are beautiful and handsome individuals. David had many wives but he was caught sinning because he chose to have a random and unplanned vacation. Whatever we do, relaxing or busy working, the Lord rewards accordingly.

It reminds us in 2 Corinthians 5:10, 10For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

God is observing us all the time, if what we do deserves rewards, whether we work or have rest and recreation, we’ve got to be aware of that. We want rest!

Christ invites us to find rest in Him. How can we find rest in Christ?

Take His yoke and learn from Him. What does yoke of Christ represent? His guidance, teachings and instructions! Pray before you go for vacation: “Lord God, please give me a plan for a restful vacation that glorifies You!” And trust that vacation idea that comes to your mind is God’s answer to your prayer.

If Christ prevails in us as Lord while we’re working or relaxing, is it counted as service to Him? So, how can we have personal vacation and still serve God?

3. Serve

31After he had washed his face, he came out and, controlling himself, said, “Serve the food.” 32They served him by himself, the brothers by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves, because Egyptians could not eat with Hebrews, for that is detestable to Egyptians.

Who were those Egyptians who ate with Joseph in his house? Probably, his personal guards and assistants or other officials assigned in his office. His brothers joined the lunch. How about his steward and servants? Did they wait for their turn to eat? Was the food for the Egyptians the same as the food given to Joseph’s brothers? Surely, Joseph as the house owner had his prominent table.

33The men had been seated before him in the order of their ages, from the firstborn to the youngest; and they looked at each other in astonishment. 34When portions were served to them from Joseph’s table, Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as anyone else’s. So they feasted and drank freely with him.

The portion of Benjamin was five times as much as anyone else’s, why?

Was it because he was Joseph’s brother? Probably! Did Joseph order his servants to serve Benjamin five times as much as anyone else’s?

Possibly! But what lesson can we learn personally from that event?

Truly, Benjamin was Joseph’s full-brother as compared to the others who his half-brothers. Joseph and Benjamin were Jacob’s sons with his wife Rachel. The rest of the brothers were Jacob’s sons from his other wives. Well taken, but is that enough reason for Joseph to give Benjamin a special favor?

Benjamin was his only brother who did not participate when the rest of his brothers planned to kill him and eventually sold him as slave. Joseph forgave his brothers but Joseph was delighted that Benjamin was not involved in the cruelty of his brothers toward him. The special favor of Joseph for Benjamin is a picture of how God would give special favor to anybody He is delighted with.

How do you normally show when you are delighted to somebody else?

Culture Shock

A missionary family went to East Asia to teach English. Their students volunteered to cook for them as way to appreciate them and also while they eat they can practice their English communication with the missionaries.

Normally, they use chopsticks to eat. Maybe, it’s cultural hospitality. How? The students take some of the delicacies and put them into the bowl of the missionaries. What is weird with that?

Well, the students licked their chopsticks to make sure no rice or food in them. Yes! The chopsticks they use for eating are the same chopsticks they use take food and put the food into the missionaries’ bowl. What? The chopsticks they just licked?! Yes! And sometimes, they even serve the food straight to the mouth of the missionaries, and used the same chopsticks to eat their food again.

The Lord has been faithful to the missionaries and kept them healthy and cherished those memories they have experienced in mission. In mission, you can have vacation adventure, experience other cultures, and still serve the Lord.

Missions or other ministries, the Lord will sustain us when we serve Him.

It says in Ephesians 6:7-8, 7Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, 8because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.

Great reward is waiting for God’s servants. The special favor that Benjamin had should remind us that the Lord cannot forget services worthy of double honor. Our style of teaching and facilitating in our Sunday School is actually designed to help you serve God worthy of double honor.  1 Timothy 5:17 says, 17The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.

Next month is nomination for leaders. May God raise more faithful leaders.

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