Spring always surprises me, and I love to be surprised. As I cleaned out the garden beds yesterday, I saw this gorgeous crocus. I acted as if someone had jumped out at me from behind a tree and I hollered out loud. I knew they were out there somewhere, but when I spotted it, it still surprised me. I love to be surprised. Have I said that before?
It reminds me of one of my favorite Bible stories. Joseph’s story is chock full of surprises. The part of the story I’m thinking about came to mind because I read it this morning. Joseph’s brothers had left Egypt and their brother Simeon behind, to bring grain back to their families who were close to starving. When they stopped for the night to feed their donkeys, they found their money in the mouth of the opened sack. It says they trembled. This was not a good deal, this was more of a nightmare. Their lives were at the mercy of the harsh-speaking ruler, who was actually their brother! The story gets better. When they have to return to buy more grain, they take double what they owe, in addition to their youngest brother, Benjamin. Joseph intimidated them so badly and squeaked out every drop of family information he could get so he could see his little brother again. What must those ten brothers have been thinking as they took the long trek back to Egypt? What must Simeon have been thinking as he sat in jail for weeks on end, pondering his past crime of selling Joseph to a bunch of slave traders?
When they arrive at last and present themselves before Joseph, he throws a feast for them. Confused, they tell the man in charge of Joseph’s house about the money mix-up. This is my favorite part: Don’t be afraid. Your God and the God of your father has given you treasure in your sacks. A shock indeed. Not only were they off free and clear, the Egyptian handed glory over where glory was due: God Himself!
The brothers weren’t even close to being done being surprised. At the meal, Joseph had them sit in birth order. Benjamin was given five times as much as anyone else.
Then, when it was time to leave, Joseph ordered his steward to put an enormous amount of food in their sacks, plus their money. Again. He also told him to put his special silver cup into Benjamin’s sack. This led to a planned-out donkey chase as Joseph ordered his steward to catch his brothers and find his silver cup. Of course, it was found in Benjamin’s sack. Of course he was the one and only son they had promised their father would come home without a scratch. So, they loaded up their donkeys and all headed back to face the wrath of the strange emotional ruler who was generous yet harsh.
Then, the biggest surprise of all. Joseph orders every person out of his presence except his brothers and drops a bomb shell on them. Weeping, he tells them he is Joseph, their brother. The Bible says they were speechless and terrified. Can you imagine?
I’ve never been surprised quite like that. But so often we are surprised when God blesses us. He is often looked at as the One who takes away, and we forget all He gives. Sometimes we think of Him as harsh, when He is really just testing us to know what is in our hearts. We all have treasures in our sacks. Our musty, dirty messed up lives are brimming with what we need to live. In addition to that, there is treasure. Every day there is treasure. Not of the money kind, but of the eternal kind.
We must be open in order to receive. We must be empty in order to be filled. He has given us treasure in our sacks.
Tell those rich in this world’s wealth to quit being so full of themselves and so obsessed with money, which is here today and gone tomorrow. Tell them to go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage—to do good, to be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous. If they do that, they’ll build a treasury that will last, gaining life that is truly life. And oh… guard the treasure you were given! Guard it with your life. Avoid the talk-show religion and the practiced confusion of the so-called experts. People caught up in a lot of talk can miss the whole point of faith. Overwhelming grace keep you! – 1 Timothy 6:18-20
This priceless treasure we hold, so to speak, in a common earthenware jar—to show that the splendid power of it belongs to God and not to us. We are handicapped on all sides, but we are never frustrated; we are puzzled, but never in despair. We are persecuted, but we never have to stand it alone: we may be knocked down but we are never knocked out! Every day we experience something of the death of the Lord Jesus, so that we may also know the power of the life of Jesus in these bodies of ours. Yes, we who are living are always being exposed to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be plainly seen in our mortal lives. We are always facing death, but this means that you know more and more of life. – 2 Corinthians 4:7-12