Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. The trial is one of CONSCIENCE. "We are verily guilty concerning our brother. "His blood is required." Face to face with one whom they supposed to be a heathen man, they are reproved. They have to tell facts which smite them with inward reproach.
II. The trial is one of HEART. To leave Simeon behind, to be afraid both for him and for themselves and for Benjamin. To be keenly perplexed and agonized for their old father. To be deeply wounded in the remembrance of their brother Joseph's anguish of soul and helpless cries for pity.
III. The trial is one of FAITH. "What is thin that God hath done unto us?" In the midst of all the roughness, and the fear, and the trouble there is still the feeling that they are being dealt with in some mysterious way by God himself, and there is a mingling of faith with their fear. Reuben again represents the better element in their character, and as they follow him they are led into peace. Joseph's smile is the smile of the loving heart which sometimes dissembles that it may reveal itself the more fully when the opportunity comes. He wept behind their backs. He was hiding the intensest love and the most abundant forgiveness and pitifulness, while he appeared to be a rough enemy. Still there were signs mingled with the harsh treatment that it was not all harsh. The sacks were filled with corn, and the money was returned. A deeper faith would have penetrated the secret. But those that have to be led from the feeble faith to the strong, have to be tried with appearances that seem, as Jacob said, "all against them. How often the believer says, All these things are against me," when he is already close upon that very stream of events which will carry him out of his distress into the midst of plenty, peace, and the joy of a healed heart in its recovered blessedness. Jacob poured out his natural fears and complaints, yet how little they were founded on truth. The son for whom he mourned yet lived and closed his eyes, and his gray hairs went to the grave in peace. - R.
Genesis 15:13, 14). But it is not merely a fact in the historical preparation for what he was bringing to pass; a link in the chain of events leading on to Christ. We must look upon it as part of a series of types foreshadowing gospel truths. The famine was a step towards the promised possession, and has its counterpart in the work of the Holy Spirit. It represents the spiritual want of man; conviction of sin (John 16:8; cf. Romans 7:9), leading to know the power of Christ's work (Matthew 18:11).
I. The first step is CONSCIOUSNESS OF FAMINE; that a man's life is more than meat; more than a supply of bodily wants. It is realizing that he has wants beyond the present life; that in living for time he has been following a shadow. This knowledge is not natural to us. Bodily hunger soon makes itself felt, but the soul's need does not; and until it is known, the man may be "poor and blind and naked," and yet suppose that he is "rich and increased with goods."
II. WE CANNOT OF OURSELVES SUPPLY THAT WANT. Gradually we learn how great it is. We want to still the accusing voice of conscience; to find a plea that shall avail in judgment; to see clearly the way of life that we may not err therein. In vain we look one on another, seeking comfort in the good opinion of men, in their testimony to our upright life. In vain we try to satisfy ourselves, by promises to do better, or by offerings of our substance or of our work. In vain is it to seek rest in unbelief, or in the persuasion that in some way all will be right. The soul cannot thus find peace. There is a voice which at times will make itself heard - "all have sinned" - thou hast sinned.
III. GOD HAS PROVIDED BREAD. "I have heard that there is corn in Egypt" (cf. Romans 10:18), answers to the gospel telling of the bread of life. As to this we mark -
1. It was provided before the want arose (1 Peter 1:20; Revelation 13:8). The gospel tells us of what has already been done, not of a gift to come into existence on certain conditions. The ransom of our souls has been paid. We have to believe and take (Revelation 22:17).
2. How faith works. They must go for that food which was ready for them. To take the bread of life must be a real earnest act, not a listless assent. The manna which was to be gathered, the brazen serpent to which the sick were to look, the command to the impotent "Rise, take up thy bed and walk," all show that it is not enough merely to wish, there must be the effort of faith (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:3). This is a law of the spiritual kingdom. As natural laws regulate results within their, domain, so spiritual results must be sought in accordance with spiritual laws.
3. It is our Brother who has made provision for us. This is our confidence. He waits to reveal himself when in humility and emptiness we come to him, and to give us plenty (1 Corinthians 3:21, 22). - M.