“And these are the kings that reigned in the land of Edom, before there reigned any king over the children of Israel.”
APPARENTLY Esau had the best and happiest lot.
What he escaped. — For him there were no few and evil days of pilgrimage; nor the pressure of famine; nor the going down into Egypt; nor the forty years of wanderings in the desert; nor the vicissitudes of the Judges. All these he escaped — and must have congratulated himself merrily. But he had no vision of God; no communion with Jehovah; no contact with the messengers of heaven.
What he enjoyed. — A line of dukes; a royal dynasty, which was old when Israel’s first king ascended the throne; a rich and fertile territory; peace and comfort. He reminds us of the Psalmist’s picture of the man of this world, whose portion is in this life, and who is filled with hid treasure. But Esau never awoke satisfied with God’s likeness; nor ever enjoyed the blessedness of the man who is “a prince with God.”
How he bore himself. — His heart was generous, full of good nature, jovial, and free-handed. When the land could not bear both Jacob and himself, he went off into another, and settled down in Mount Seir. It was no hardship with him to leave the land of promise. Most would, doubtless, have preferred his society to Jacob’s; but God did not (Malachi 1:2–3).
What made the lot of these brothers so different. — The one lived for the world; the other was a citizen of the heavenly Jerusalem, a pilgrim to the City of God. The one was an ordinary man of the world; the other had been selected of God as the channel of blessing to mankind. The flower and fruit which are to be propagated require the special attention of the gardener’s knife. What solemn words!
“And they took him, and cast him into a pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it.”
IT is impossible to read this inimitable story without detecting in the water-mark of the paper on which it is written the name Jesus. Indeed, we lose much of the beauty and force of these early Scriptures if we fail to observe the references to the life, character, and work of the blessed Redeemer. Notice some of these precious analogies:— Our Savior’s shepherd-heart (Genesis 37:2).
The love of the Father before the worlds were made (Genesis 37:3).
The dreams of empire, which are so certainly to be realized, when we shall see Him acknowledged as King of kings and Lord of lords (Genesis 37:7).
Envied by his brethren, to whom he came, though they received Him not (Genesis 37:11).
His alacrity to do his Father’s will, and to finish his work, in which will we too have been sanctified (Genesis 37:13).
Cast into the pit of the grave, as a seed-corn into the ground to die, that He might not abide alone, but bear much fruit (Genesis 37:24).
The thirty pieces of silver for which He was betrayed (Genesis 37:28).
The indifference of the Jewish people to their great Brother’s fate (Genesis 37:25).
Rejected of the Jew, and turning to the Gentile (Genesis 37:28).
The bitter grief which his rejection has brought on the Jewish people (Genesis 37:35).
It is as though the Holy Ghost, eager to glorify the Lord, could not wait for the slow unfolding of history, but must anticipate the story of that precious life and death which were to make the world new again.
“And it came to pass at that time, that Judah went down from his brethren, and turned in to a certain Adullamite, whose name was Hirah.”
THIS was the destined heir of the birthright of which Reuben had shown himself unworthy; and yet this chapter is a dark story of his unbridled passion. O my soul, remember that the possibilities of all these sins are latent in thee! Thou mightest have been as one of these men or women but for the grace of God.
There is nothing so absolutely priceless as the white flower of a pure and blameless life. The pure in heart are the children of the presence-chamber — entrusted with secrets hidden from the wise and prudent — vessels by which God does not hesitate to quench the thirst of men, because the water of the crystal river will not be diluted or contaminated by contact with their natures. Above all other gifts, covet that of a cleansed heart. You may be very conscious of temptation, and that naturally you are no better than others, and yet if you will constantly live in the Spirit, and walk in the Spirit, you will be kept absolutely pure; and the sea of ink that is sweeping through the world will leave no stain on you.
The blood cleanseth: “The blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
The Savior keepeth: “The Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil” (2 Thessalonians 3:3).
The Spirit filleth: “Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” (1 Corinthians 6:19).
God can take in hand the Judahs amongst us, and so deal with them as to produce such a character as is forth shadowed in Genesis 49:8.
“There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?”
WHAT a contrast between this chapter and the former: that, like a Rembrandt background, throws up the bright colors of this. Where the older brother fell, the younger stood victoriously; and the light of God shone on the young heart, so that even the dungeon gloom could not extinguish it. Who does not know what it is to be misunderstood, misrepresented, accused falsely, and punished wrongfully! Yet God reigns: and in his own time “He shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noon-day.”
God allows strength to be tested. — We do not know what we are, or where we stand, till we are compelled to choose. Insensibly character is ever forming — unconsciously we are taking sides; but the testing-hour that compels us to declare ourselves causes the solution suddenly to crystallize, and we know ourselves in our choice. The man who has chosen the pure and good once, will choose them more easily next time; and at each choice will become stronger.
God allows virtue to be Maligned. — In all Egypt there was not a purer soul, and yet Joseph lay under a terrible imputation; but he committed his cause to God, sure that He would not leave him in Hades; and the time came when the King’s word cleared him, and he stood forth vindicated. “Fret not thyself. Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him.”
God allows conscientiousness to be ill-repaid. — Of what avail that he had so well cared for his master’s goods? Ah, but that dungeon was the subterranean passage to a throne; and through those fetters iron entered into that young soul. We all need more iron in our blood!
“And he asked Pharaoh’s officers that were with him in the ward of his lord’s house, saying, Wherefore look ye so sadly to day?”
WE may learn from Joseph the true method of bearing grief.
Joseph might have become moody and sullen, absorbed in his own misfortunes, and pessimistic about the course of human life.
How far removed from all this was his behavior!
He filled his time with ministry. — The captain of the guard charged him with two state-prisoners, and he ministered unto them.
A new interest came into his life, and he almost forgot the heavy pressure of his own troubles amid the interest of listening to the tales of those who were more unfortunate than himself. Do not nurse your grief in lonely brooding arise and minister to some one; do something in the world; exert yourself to alleviate the sufferings of those close by your side, who have not so clear a conscience or so bright a trust in God.
He was quick to sympathize and comfort. — Quick to notice traces of sorrow, because he had sorrowed; able to sympathize, because he had wept; adept at comforting, because he had been comforted of God. We gain comfort when we attempt to comfort.
Out of such intercourse we get what Joseph got — the key which will unlock the heavy doors by which we have been shut in. Light a fire in another’s heart, and your own heart will be warmed.
He kept his faith in God. — Depression, captivity, loneliness, separation from those he loved, could not quench his faith in God.
Still God was near and precious to him. The stifling darkness and oppression of the prison were irksome to the free child of the camp; but God was as near as in Jacob’s tent. There is no evil to them that love God; and the believer loses sight of second causes in the contemplation of the unfolding of the mystery of his Father’s will.
“And Joseph answered Pharaoh, saying, It is not in me: God shall give Pharaoh an answer of peace.”
IT is beautiful to notice Joseph’s reverent references to God in his first interview with Pharaoh. When the heart is full of God, the tongue will be almost obliged to speak of Him; and all such references will be easy and natural as flowers in May.
These words might have been uttered by the Lord Jesus. They are so perfectly in harmony with the tenor of His life. He loved to say that His words, and works, and plans, were not His own, but the Father’s. Once, when a ruler called Him good, He reminded him that only One was good, and that all goodness was derived from God. Men knew little enough of Jesus, because He sought ever to be a reflecting mirror for His Father, and to glorify Him on the earth. But the Spirit reveals Him to those that love.
These words might have been the Apostle Paul’s. He delighted to say that he worked, yet not he, but the grace of God in him; that he lived, yet not he, but Christ in him; that he knew and spake the mysteries of God, yet not he, but the Spirit of God.
Thus we should speak. Our light must so shine that men may turn from us to Him from whom we have derived it. Whenever the temptation arises to revert on ourselves, to attract men to ourselves, to lead them to think that we can meet their need, let us count ourselves dead to the suggestion, saying, “It is not in me; God shall give” (Acts 3:12). What strength and comfort come into our hearts, in view of demands which are too great for our weak nature to meet.
“It is not in me; God shall give.” If our hearts were indicting a good matter, they would boil over, and we should speak more frequently of the things that touch our King.
“The man, who is the lord of the land, spake roughly to us, and took us for spies of the country.”
HE spake roughly, but he did not feel so. — When he had spoken in these harsh tones, he restored their money; turned aside to weep (Genesis 42:24); and did his best to alleviate the toils of travel. So sometimes God seems to deal harshly, and speak roughly; but there is no change in the tender love of his heart. It costs Him immeasurably more than it does us. Often when some unusual severity has been evinced, if we could but see his face, it would be full of pity, pain, and pleading on our behalf. He feels yearnings over use which He restrains, and dares not betray till the work of conviction is complete.
He spake roughly to awaken conscience. — It had slept for twenty years. They had almost forgotten that scene at the pit’s mouth; but as he repeated their tones, and words, and treatment, it all came back again, and they cried, “We are verily guilty concerning our brother.” There must be repentance and confession before God can take us to His heart. We must confess the wrongs done to our Brother in heaven and our brothers on earth; and many of the roughness of God’s Providence are intended to awaken us, and bring our sin to remembrance.
He spake roughly to test them. — How did they feel toward each other: was there rivalry, or bitterness, or angry feeling? Beneath his biting words, Joseph would mark their behavior! Would they disown each other, or cling to one another? There was an opportunity for their doing one or the other; and he was glad to notice how their love approved itself. So we are led over stony roads, that God may know what is in our hearts. He gives us opportunities of showing our real feeling towards our brothers, that He may test our love towards Himself.