(Genesis 43.11 & 45.9)
Only the best is good enough
There is much blessing to be gained from being occupied with the lovely and divine qualities of the Lord Jesus which are seen being worked out in the saints of God (Phil 4.8). In the record of the Old Testament worthies (Heb 11), God chose only to highlight those attributes in their lives that reflected His will. Christians would do well to exercise the same disposition when speaking of fellow believers.
Jacobs shortcomings are well known; yet if we were to set the record of Jacobs life alongside our own, many of us would have to confess that we are no better, perhaps even worse. We may ask, "What was Gods estimate of Jacob?". The answer is that He bestowed on him the highest accolade of honour, that of "worshipper" (Heb 11.21). When the love and grace of God are active within us, we lovingly elevate fellow believers in our hearts and thoughts; recognising that God has set us all in Christ, His Beloved (Col 3.3).
Although Jacob had no idea that the "ruler of all Egypt" was his son Joseph, he nevertheless recognised that if he and his family were going to survive the famine, he had to comply with the demands of the man, no matter how painful. Allowing Benjamin to join the brothers on their second journey to Egypt was painfully heart-rending for Jacob. However, the experience was a valuable lesson for him on how to continue surrendering ones own will to the will of God. We, too, need more readily to relinquish to God those fears in our hearts which hinder our going forward in faith to enjoy the provisions He has made available to us (Ps 37.3-6).
Despite the severity of the famine, the more prosperous families such as Jacobs would always have had in store delicacies to supplement their basic fare. Undoubtedly, the items comprising Jacobs gift were already in abundant supply in Pharaohs household, but whatever Jacob would send to the man who controlled all Egypt, he knew it would be no guarantee of the safe return of Simeon and Benjamin. Nevertheless, Jacob was genuinely anxious that his gift should be commensurate with the dignity and honour of the ruler of the most powerful country in the world at that time. Six different items comprised the gift, and each was a significant constituent in the light of what was going to happen over the next year; albeit Jacob would not have been aware of Gods plan. As far as Jacob was concerned, Joseph had died 21 to 22 years earlier, so the thought of meeting his son was not on his mind. The expression, "the best fruits" implies that the items were choice, having been carefully selected and prepared by Jacob. What an example for us today! When we come together to remember the Lord Jesus in the Supper we should be careful to offer only "the best gifts". Such gifts will bear the stamp of our personal exercise, and be evidence of what we have gained and made good to our souls during the past week arising from our times of communion with God our Father through the Lord Jesus Christ. But let us be careful to ensure that in our offerings (worship) there is nothing second-hand or less than the best, and certainly not an imitation of anothers offering.
In looking at the spiritual significance of the constituents that comprised Jacobs gift, we shall see how beautifully they reflect the lovely nature of Joseph and, in a wider context, the precious attributes of the Lord Jesus.
Balm (Commiphora gileadensis)
Balm is the product of an evergreen tree that reaches a height of 4-5m (13-16 feet), bears panicles of white flowers, and abounds with a resinous fluid (balm). The plant spontaneously exudes its precious resin from the bark, but to obtain large quantities for commercial purposes, the trunk is incised. In Biblical days, balm was the principal emollient for a wide range of wounds and a very effective antidote for snakebites.
In Jeremiah 8, the prophet tells of the Lords intention to judge the people of Judah for their idolatry. Among other things, venomous snakes and cockatrices would bite them so that many would suffer and die. When the judgment occurred, the gravity of the situation prompted Jeremiah to cry, "Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there?" (Jer 8.22). The prophet knew that balm was the most effective antidote to relieve and heal the people.
Today, when the Lords people suffer because of departure from the path of discipleship, there is only one remedy: confession and repentance before God in the sanctuary. Most of us will at some time in our lives have experienced the healing and curative power of the grace, mercy and peace of God (Jas 5.16; 1 Jn 1.9). It is a sobering thought to note that the severity of the judgment of Egypt was such that no balm or medicine could cure the people (Jer 46.11; see also 1 Cor 11.30).
Before Jacobs family could be harmoniously reunited in love, there had to be a healing of the grievous wounds the brothers had inflicted upon both their father and Joseph; herein lies the significance of the first item in Jacobs gift, balm. During all his years in Egypt, Joseph had never forgotten his father and brothers. He continually looked forward to the day when his family would be reunited in love; he knew that day would surely come (Gen 45.4-7); and it would be Joseph himself who would exercise a healing influence over the family.
Josephs words and behaviour toward his brothers when they first stood before him in Egypt (Gen 42.7-9) were not in the spirit of bitterness or revenge. Rather, Josephs manner was designed to awaken a sense of guilt in their consciences and effect repentance in their hearts. The beginning of a healing process can sometimes be very painful as Josephs brothers experienced (Gen 42.21), albeit they did not at the time recognise that it was their brother before whom they were standing. It was during the brothers second visit to Egypt with Benjamin, and while appearing before the ruler of all Egypt to answer for the silver cup found in Benjamins sack, that they were at their lowest ebb. It was surely while Judah was rehearsing his fathers understanding for the disappearance of their brother Joseph, notwithstanding he and the nine brothers knew it to be false, that their souls were ransacked through a deep sense of guilt and remorse. Now was the time for Joseph to apply the healing balm (Gen 45.1-8). We may rightly conclude that, following Josephs revelation of himself to his brothers, they repented of their heinous crime and told their father the truth about Josephs disappearance 22 years earlier. That was when the healing balm took effect. Similarly, Israel as a nation will in due time repent of their apostasy, be healed and made fit to enjoy their inheritance (Is 9.7).
We see a continuous outpouring of healing balm in the life of the Lord Jesus. Having triumphed over Satan in the wilderness, our Lord entered the synagogue in Nazareth to read part of the first two verses of Isaiah 61: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord" (Lk 4.18-19). So we find very early in Marks Gospel the Lord healing a man possessed of an unclean spirit (Mk 1.23-26). Our Lords final act of healing was the restoration of the High Priests servants ear (Lk 22.50-51). We know from the four Gospels, that between these two events the Lord healed many.
None today can deny the great need for the healing balm of the Lord Jesus. Lost souls who are still under the control of Satan are diseased by sin and in desperate need of spiritual healing. Many of Gods children who have been spiritually wounded by fellow believers remain injured and isolated because of the lack of shepherd care among the flock of God; they also are in need of healing. The Lord Jesus said, "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one for another" (Jn 13.35). Writing to the Christian believers at Ephesus, the apostle Paul expresses what to his heart is the balm of the Lord Jesus: "Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christs sake hath forgiven you" (Eph 4.32).
When the bond of peace is broken, restoration will occur only when there is an admission of responsibility for the failure. This is exactly what happened among Josephs brothers. When there is repentance in the sanctuary, there will no difficulty putting matters right with wounded parties. The grievous wounds will heal through the Lords loving application of the "Balm of Gilead" (1 Thess 5.23).
To be continued.