Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Benjamin: The son of sorrow and glory

Jacob noticed a sudden increase of activity about the birthing tent. More women were appearing. Everyone seemed to be moving more quickly, with more urgency. Something was wrong!

Jacob barged into the tent. Rachel was still on the birthing stool, surrounded by the midwives. One was supporting her from behind, stroking her head, whispering comfort into her ear. She was pale and seemed barely conscious. There seemed to be more blood than in the past.

The midwife by Rachel's feet tried to encourage her. “The baby's head is emerging.” Rachel groaned, her faced clenched. She pushed. Twice more she pushed and groaned and bled. “It's a boy! You have another boy”, the midwife shouted.

Rachel almost collapsed onto the floor. The midwife at her back barely kept her from toppling over to the side. A bed appeared and they quickly transferred her onto it . A servant carried the newborn to his mother, and leaned down low so that Rachel might see her son. Rachel ran her fingertip across his little brow. When Rachel tried to speak, the servant leaned in even lower so that she might hear.

The woman rose from Rachel's side and came to present the baby to his father. “My mistress,” the woman said, “has named the child Ben-Oni.” Jacob looked at his son. “I shall call him Ben-Jamin,” he said.

With her dying breath, Rachel named her child. She called him Ben-Oni which means “Son of my Sorrow.” But the boy's time as Ben-Oni was a brief one, for his father gave him another name. Jacob called him Ben-Jamin, or “Son of the right hand.” It was the father's name that he carried throughout the rest of his days.

The book of Isaiah speaks prophetically of the Messiah as “A Man of Sorrows.” We see this prophecy fulfilled throughout Jesus' life as He weeps at the grave of Lazarus, as he weeps over Jerusalem. He even tells his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death.”

But that time of suffering and sorrow was brief. It has past. The work of Calvary has been completed. Over and over, the New Testament tells us that Jesus is ascended. That He has been given a place of honor and glory. That the Son is seated at the right hand of the Father.

(Genesis 35)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Joseph: The innocent prisoner

They made a particularly glum pair this morning, the butcher and the baker. “Why do you look so sad,” Joseph asked. “We've both had strange dreams,” came the reply, “but we have no one to interpret them for us.”

Joseph thought for a moment. “Don't all interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams.”

The baker went first. “Mine was really weird. I was standing in front of a vine with three big branches. Suddenly, the branches started to bud and the buds turned to grapes and soon the branches were heavy with these huge clusters of ripe grapes! I looked down at my right hand, and I was holding Pharaoh's cup. I watched my hands reach out to squeeze the grapes and catch the juice with the cup. Then I turned and there was Pharaoh seated next to me on his throne. I placed the cup into his hand... and that's all I remember.”

“Here is the interpretation,” Joseph began. “The three branches represent three days. Within three days Pharaoh will bring you up out of this prison and return you to your former position. You will again put the cup into his hand, as you had in the past.”

“When you are returned to the king,” Joseph said, “Remember me.”

Pharaoh's butcher and baker were sent to prison for offending the king. The exact nature of their crimes is not recorded for us but, whatever their crimes, it appears that they were both facing execution. The morning after their bizarre nocturnal visions, they sit together with Joseph as God reveals to him the interpretation of their dreams.

The baker's dream foretold that within three days he would die. The butler's dream showed that he would be delivered from prison, returned to his post and to favor with the king. Joseph pleads with him to remember him, to bring his case before Pharaoh, and to seek his deliverance from prison. Although the dream comes to pass and the King frees the butler three days later, it is two full years before he recalls his promise to Joseph.

The scene in Genesis 40 is an innocent man and two condemned criminals. We see a similar scene at Calvary: the innocent Jesus hanging between two thieves. When one begins to curse and blaspheme Jesus, the other confronts him. He rebukes the man, confesses his own guilt, and then pleads with Jesus for mercy. “Lord, remember me when you come into your Kingdom,” he cries. There will be no delays, no forgotten promises. “Today”, Jesus declares, “you will be with me in Paradise.”

(Genesis 40, Luke 23)