Wednesday, July 11, 2007

a covenant without rationing

In today's reading from Genesis, Pharaoh tells the people suffering from the famine to go to Joseph for assistance.

Genesis 41
55: When all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread; and Pharaoh said to all the Egyptians, "Go to Joseph; what he says to you, do."
56: So when the famine had spread over all the land, Joseph opened all the storehouses, and sold to the Egyptians, for the famine was severe in the land of Egypt.
57: Moreover, all the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain, because the famine was severe over all the earth.

Compare to the Cana story:

John 2
1: On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; 2: Jesus also was invited to the marriage, with his disciples.
3: When the wine failed, the mother of Jesus said to him, "They have no wine."
4: And Jesus said to her, "O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come." 5: His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you."

In Egypt, Joseph is given the power by Pharaoh to ration out the abundance they have stored up to those from all lands who come in need. The generosity of Pharaoh is certainly uncharacteristic of demi-god autocrats of the old world. It was prompted by his love and gratitude towards Joseph, whose insight and faith spared Pharaoh's kingdom from the horrible famine. Joseph is the inspiration and source of Pharaoh's mercy, just as Jesus is the source of God the Father's mercy. When we look at the episode between Joseph and his brothers, another clear parallel appears.

Genesis 42
5: Thus the sons of Israel came to buy among the others who came, for the famine was in the land of Canaan.
6: Now Joseph was governor over the land; he it was who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph's brothers came, and bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground.
7: Joseph saw his brothers, and knew them, but he treated them like strangers and spoke roughly to them. "Where do you come from?" he said. They said, "From the land of Canaan, to buy food."
8: Thus Joseph knew his brothers, but they did not know him.
9: And Joseph remembered the dreams which he had dreamed of them; and he said to them, "You are spies, you have come to see the weakness of the land."
10: They said to him, "No, my lord, but to buy food have your servants come.
11: We are all sons of one man, we are honest men, your servants are not spies."
12: He said to them, "No, it is the weakness of the land that you have come to see."
13: And they said, "We, your servants, are twelve brothers, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan; and behold, the youngest is this day with our father, and one is no more."
14: But Joseph said to them, "It is as I said to you, you are spies.
15: By this you shall be tested: by the life of Pharaoh, you shall not go from this place unless your youngest brother comes here.
16: Send one of you, and let him bring your brother, while you remain in prison, that your words may be tested, whether there is truth in you; or else, by the life of Pharaoh, surely you are spies."
17: And he put them all together in prison for three days.
18: On the third day Joseph said to them, "Do this and you will live, for I fear God:
19: if you are honest men, let one of your brothers remain confined in your prison, and let the rest go and carry grain for the famine of your households,
20: and bring your youngest brother to me; so your words will be verified, and you shall not die." And they did so.
21: Then they said to one another, "In truth we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he besought us and we would not listen; therefore is this distress come upon us."
22: And Reuben answered them, "Did I not tell you not to sin against the lad? But you would not listen. So now there comes a reckoning for his blood."
23: They did not know that Joseph understood them, for there was an interpreter between them.
24: Then he turned away from them and wept;

So it is clear that Joseph prefigures Christ in that he was cast off into death and slavery by his brothers and then instead, prepared the Kingdom for a time of there suffering and need. However, the key to me is the direct connection with not just Christ's life on earth and His passion, but the veiled nature of the Risen Lord, both to the Apostles...

Luke 24
25: And he said to them, "O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!
26: Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?"
27: And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.
28: So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He appeared to be going further, 29: but they constrained him, saying, "Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent." So he went in to stay with them.
30: When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them.
31: And their eyes were opened and they recognized him; and he vanished out of their sight.
32: They said to each other, "Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the scriptures?"

...and ultimately to every single human being...

Matthew 25
34: Then the King will say to those at his right hand, `Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;
35: for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
36: I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.'
37: Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink?
38: And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee?
39: And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?'
40: And the King will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.'

What Joseph had for his brothers was surplus from the earth that had been acquired through obedience to the wisdom of God. But it was still a surplus produced by the sweat of man's brow, according to the curse upon Adam. What Jesus gave to the wedding guests at Cana was undeserved and excessive - a true outpouring of generosity of a kind and quality meant to symbolize the infinite mercy Christ offers us from the cross. Just as Jacob's sons received from Joseph with a guilty conscience, we too must recognize our own sins as we ask for the mercy of our Lord - a Lord who is disguised to us every day, and who calls on us to search for him in the darkness so that we will be "surprised by joy" when he is revealed to us in the light.

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