B'resheet/Genesis 44:14 And Judah and his brothers came to the house of Yosef and he was still there
It is a few hours after dawn. Yosef's brothers have left his house with their packs full of grain and are on their way home to their father Ya'akov back in the land of Canaan. The story tells us, "With the first light of morning, the men were sent off with their pack animals" (B'resheet 44:3, JPS). As they ride on, perhaps they are telling Simeon - who has spent the last few months since their first shopping trip to Egypt in prison as a hostage against their return - what has been happening and how everyone is, back at home. Or perhaps they are congratulating themselves on the narrowness of their escape from a tricky situation - how did Grand Vizier know to seat them all in age order at dinner? - and being able to get away without too many difficult questions about Benjamin. Little do they know that even now Yosef's steward is racing after them to discover the so-called "stolen goblet", which the steward himself had planted there on Yosef's instructions, in Benjamin's sack and to arrest the whole group before bringing them back to Egypt immediately under armed guard. The miles they had so gaily travelled in the crisp dawn light, laughing and joking between themselves, will soon be reversed in shocked silence as they return to Yosef's house, a sombre and fearful group of shaken men.
Our text tells us that when they came to Yosef's house, he was still there. While the word , "he was still ...", is used fifteen times in the Tanakh, the phase , "he was still there", is used just this once; it is ahapax legomenon. Rashi offers one of his typically short comments: "Because he was waiting for them." Since very next phrase of the verse relates that "they fell to the ground before him" (44:14) it seems somewhat obvious that he was still there. David Pardo suggests that "The verse tells us he was still there to indicate that he made a point of waiting for the return of his brothers so that they could be brought to him immediately and spared the embarrassment of having to wait in public." Nahum Sarna sees less intentionality: "He had not yet left the house for his place of work because it was still very early in the morning." Having set his brothers up, given instructions to plant the goblet and then told his steward, "Up, follow after the men, and when you overtake them, say to them, 'Why have you repaid evil for good? Is it not from this that my lord drinks, and by this that he practices divination? You have done evil in doing this'" (vv. 4-5, JPS), Yosef is surely not just going to have a shower, grab some breakfast, put on his suit and take the park-and-ride into his office at the palace as usual, is he? Quite deliberately, as the text says, , "he was still there", waiting for the brothers' return so that the next stage in the drama could be played out. He would, if necessary, have waited all day!
The prophets speak of the way in whichHaShem waits for His people. Here Isaiah expresses HaShem's words: "I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for Me; I was ready to be found by those who did not seek Me. I said, 'Here am I, here am I,' to a nation that was not called by My name. I spread out My hands all the day to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices; a people who provoke Me to My face continually, sacrificing in gardens and making offerings on bricks" (Isaiah 65:1-3, ESV). That's commitment! But HaShem won't give up on His people; He keeps on calling and will never rule out responding to them. Rav Sha'ul quotes this very passage in Isaiah - "But of Israel He says, 'All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people'" (Romans 10:21, ESV) - and then goes on: "I ask, then, has G-d rejected His people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. G-d has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to G-d against Israel? 'L-rd, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.' But what is G-d's reply to him? 'I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.' So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace" (11:1-5, ESV). "I am standing here," he says, "as living proof that G-d has not abandoned Israel." G-d has made sure that there will always be a remnant who will serve Him and bring honour to His name.
Yeshua tells a story about someone who waits: the father of the Prodigal Son. The son requests his share of the family inheritance and then leaves home; unknown (at least in detail) to his father, he then "squandered his property in reckless living" (Luke 15:13, ESV). Back at home, the father was waiting anxiously for his son to return home. The son is reduced to feeding pigs and eventually decides that he must swallow his pride and reverse his steps (and miles) of independence and return to his father's house where, he reasons, he can take a job and earn a living. But hear Yeshua's words about the father: "while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him" (v. 20, ESV). The father has been waiting for a long time; he has been eagerly scanning the horizon, expecting and anticipating the son's return. As initiator, the father now becomes the centre of the story. As Darrell Bock explains, "he greets his son with a kiss; the son is accepted before he says a word. A relationship is being restored. With repentance comes reconciliation."1 Not only is the father ready to receive the son back, he has been waiting and preparing against the day when the son would return. He has been looking out for the son and has not given up hope that he will come home. He has not gone away or left the farm; he is still there.
The prophet Jeremiah applies the hope of a father for return of his son to the relationship between G-d and Israel: "I can hear Ephraim lamenting: 'You have chastised me, and I am chastised Like a calf that has not been broken. Receive me back, let me return, for You, O L-RD, are my G-d. Now that I have turned back, I am filled with remorse; now that I am made aware, I strike my thigh. I am ashamed and humiliated, for I bear the disgrace of my youth.' Truly, Ephraim is a dear son to Me, a child that is dandled! Whenever I have turned against him, My thoughts would dwell on him still. That is why My heart yearns for him; I will receive him back in love -- declares the L-RD" (Jeremiah 31:18-20, JPS). HaShem is resolved to receive Israel back, in love, and yearns for that return.
The same yearning applies to all those who are called in Messiah Yeshua to come into relationship with Father G-d through Him. The heart of G-d is open, waiting for us to repent and turn to Him, to claim the forgiveness that is waiting for us in Yeshua; that He won for us by His obedient faithfulness on the cross. Yeshua invites all of us to "Come to Me" (Matthew 11:28), and promises that "All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out" (John 6:37, ESV). Yeshua says, "I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand" (John 10:28, ESV). It is the Father's will that, "I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day" (John 6:39, ESV).
When you hear the Spirit prompt you, or friends say to you, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the L-RD, to the house of the G-d of Ya'akov, that He may teach us His ways and that we may walk in His paths" (Isaiah 2:3, ESV), think of Judah and his brothers going back to the house of Yosef; Yosef was still there, waiting for them. Think of the son returning to his father in Yeshua's parable of the Prodigal Son; the father ran to meet his son, and kissed and embraced him. Think of Israel, ashamed and humiliated, turning back to G-d; G-d yearns for him and takes him back in love. Then resolve to turn back to G-d yourself; He is still there, waiting for you. No matter where you are, what you have been doing, Yeshua is calling you to come to Him to find peace and rest. Come, let us go up to the house of the L-rd!
1. - Darrell L. Bock, Luke 9:51-24:53 ECNT, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 1996), page 1314.
Further Study: Jeremiah 33:1-3; James 4:4-10
Application: Are you estranged from G-d? Far away, lost and lonely on your own, locked in a world without hope? Today is the time to turn back to Him, assured of a welcome in the Father's house through Yeshua the Son who has made a way for everyone to be reconciled to the Father. Don't delay - reach out right now!
© Jonathan Allen, 2016
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