THE NEW EWE

"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it?  And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"  

Luke 15:4-6

May 7, 2008

LIFE IN THE FOLD:

Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

Genesis 50:20 “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good...”

Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers when he was a seventeen year old teenager. He has gone from being head over Potipher's household, to unjustly being thrown into prison, to interpreting the king's dream and being put in a position of second-in command over all of Egypt. He was thirty years old when he was first placed in that position.

Just as Joseph had interpreted from Pharaoh's dream, Egypt experienced seven years of plenty. Joseph had the country fill storehouses with grain, and now they were able to keep from starving during the seven years of famine. Other countries had heard of the stores of grain that Egypt had, and came to buy food.

Joseph is married and has two sons, named Manasseh and Ephraim . He is now somewhere between age thirty-seven and his early forties.

The famine is severe all over the land, and Joseph's father, Jacob, heard about there being grain in Egypt. In Genesis 42:2 Jacob tells his sons, “Indeed I have heard that there is grain in Egypt; go down to that place and buy for us there, that we may live and not die.”

So Joseph's ten older brothers went to buy grain in Egypt. Joseph had a younger brother named Benjamin, but Jacob kept him at home because he was afraid that some calamity would happen to him. He had already lost Joseph and didn't want to take the chance of losing this son too.

Joseph was governor over the land; and it was he who sold to all the people. His brothers came and bowed before him with their faces to the earth. He recognized them, but they did not know who he was. You have to remember that Joseph was an awkward, pimple-face teenage boy the last time they had seen him. Now he is a grown man, sitting in a position of high power and authority, and more than likely dressed and looking like an Egyptian. Plus they had sold him into slavery, and didn't even know whether he was dead or alive. I'm sure they thought if he were alive, he would be in a slavery position somewhere.

Remember the dreams that Joseph had had back when he was still home, where his brothers all knelt before him? He was now seeing this come to pass, and he recalled those dreams.

Joseph decided to test his brothers. He spoke roughly to them and accused them of being spies, coming to Egypt to see the barrenness of the land. They told him that they were all brothers, were honest men, and had only come to buy food. Once again, Joseph accused them.

They answered, “Your servants are twelve brothers, the sons of one man in the land of Canaan; and in fact, the youngest is with our father today, and one is no more” (speaking of Joseph).

Joseph accuses them once more of being spies, and told them that they shall not leave unless their youngest brother comes to Egypt. He told them to send one of the brothers back to get their youngest brother, and he would keep the others in prison, so that their words would be tested to see if they were being honest.

Joseph then puts them into prison for three days. After that time, he speaks to them once again.

Do this and live, for I fear God: If you are honest men, let one of your brothers be confined to this prison house; but you, go and carry grain for the famine of your houses. Bring your youngest brother to me; so your words will be verified, and you shall not die.”

They said to one another, “We are truly guilty concerning our brother [Joseph], for we saw the anguish of his soul when he pleaded with us, and we would not hear; therefore this distress has come upon us.”

Reuben answered them, “Did I not speak to you, saying, 'Do not sin against the boy'; and you would not listen? Therefore, behold, his blood is now required of us.”

Remember that Reuben was the one brother who had not wanted to harm Joseph. He had talked them out of killing him and putting him in the well instead, thinking that he would later come back and rescue him and send him home. Only when he came back, he found Joseph was gone.

Joseph had been speaking to his brothers through an interpreter all this time, so the brothers had no idea that he could understand what they were saying. He was testing them, and wanted to make sure that they were truly sorry for their actions against him.

When he realized their deep, heart-felt remorse, he turned away from them and wept. When he turned back to them, he took Simeon and bound him before their eyes.

Once we have been severely betrayed by someone, it is hard for us to regain our trust in them. They can come and say their sorry, but at times it's hard to know whether they are saying that to ease their own conscience or if they truly mean it. There are occasions where they may want our friendship back so they can use us for their own selfish purpose, or want us to do something for them.

I had what I thought was a really close friend for many years growing up. I never realized, until I matured and became an adult, that that person had used me over and over again. For example, when we were kids, she would tell her parents that I wanted something, thinking they would be more prone to say yes. After she married, she would want to go somewhere, call and ask me to go with her, then tell her husband that I had called and asked her to go with me. She was prone to lie to serve her own purposes. Finally, a couple of incidents happened where all trust and respect that I had for her were completely wiped away. One of those times, she did call and half-heartedly say she was sorry. But the truth was, she wasn't sorry for what she did; she was sorry that she had gotten caught. I know that from her words, and also because she called others trying to get their sympathy for her cause, and get them to take her side. To this day, that trust and respect has never been regained.

There are also times in our own lives when we sin. It may be a conscious act, a situation that we get caught up in, or one of those times when we just slip up. Sometimes it's easy to just nonchalantly say, “Oops, sorry God”, and go on our way. We're sorry we messed up, but not really repentant of the act. Other times, we're not really sorry for what we did, but just sorry that we got caught. But true repentance is when we feel true heartfelt sorrow for our wrongdoing.

In 2 Corinthians, Paul is writing a letter to the church at Corinth. In chapter 7 verses 9 and 10 he writes, “Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of this world produces death.”

Joseph wanted to know for sure that his brothers were truly sorry and repentant for their act against him. That's why he didn't reveal his identity to them right away. He wanted to be reconciled to them for who he was, not for what he could do for them.

Then Joseph gave a command to fill their sacks with grain, to restore every man's money to his sack, and to give them provisions for their journey.

So his brothers loaded their donkeys with the bags of grain, and departed from Egypt. Much later, they had made camp, and one of the brothers opened his bag of grain to feed his donkey. It was only then that he found his money in the mouth of his sack.

He told his brothers, “My money has been restored, and there it is, in my sack!” Then their hearts became fearful and they were afraid and they said to one anther, “What is this that God has done to us?”

They had been accused of being spies, had spent three days in prison, and now when they finally received their grain and headed home, they found their money in their sacks. Their brother, Simeon, was bound in Egypt. I'm sure they felt that they were being punished by God for their actions against Joseph.

They returned to their father, Jacob, in Canaan, and told him everything that had happened to them.

Jacob's reply to them was, “You have bereaved me; Joseph is no more, Simeon is no more, and now you want to take Benjamin. All these things are against me.”

Reuben steps up, taking full responsibility for Benjamin's return, if only Jacob will give permission for him to go back to Egypt with them. He offers his two sons lives as payment, if he does not bring Benjamin back.

But still Jacob refuses to let Benjamin go, saying that if some calamity befell him, that it would surely kill him.

When Jacob was a young man, he had fallen in love with Rachel and worked seven years for her father, in order to get to marry her. It was custom for the bride to be completely veiled. Jacob found out the morning after his wedding night, that her father had put his oldest daughter, Leah, in her place and he was now married to the wrong sister. So he worked seven more years in order to get Rachel as his bride. He ended up being married to the two sisters. What a mess! Leah gave him many children, yet Rachel was barren and was unable to conceive. Finally, Rachel gave Jacob two sons; Joseph and Benjamin. Because they were born of his much beloved wife, they were his favorites and much beloved. That was the root of the older brothers' jealousy of Joseph.

I'm not a parent, but when I read this story I find it strange that Jacob is so consumed with grief when Joseph supposedly is killed by a wild animal, and then he flat-out refuses to allow Benjamin to go to Egypt with his older brothers, because he's fearful that something may happen to him. Yet his son, Simeon, is in an Egyptian prison and Jacob doesn't seem overly upset about that.

The famine only grew worse, and eventually all the grain that the brothers had brought back from Egypt was used up. Jacob once again told his sons to go buy more food.

Judah spoke up and said if you let Benjamin go with us, we will go. But if not, then we won't go. The reason being that “the man” had told them that unless they brought their younger brother, then they would not see his face.

Much argument ensued with Jacob asking why they had mentioned that they had another brother, and them saying that he had pointedly asked. How were they to know that he would ask to see their brother!?

Reuben had already told Jacob that if they didn't return Benjamin back to him, that he could kill his own two sons. Now Judah stands up and also takes responsibility, offering to take the blame forever if they do not bring their youngest brother back home with them. It shows that throughout the years, the brothers really had matured and were repentant.

Out of desperation, Jacob finally relents. But he tells them to take gifts of the best fruits of the land to present to “the man” - a little balm and a little honey, spices and myrrh, pistachio nuts and almonds. He also told them to take double their money so they could repay what had been returned in their sacks, plus pay for the new grain.

Jacob ended with saying, “And may God Almighty give you mercy before the man, that he may release your other brother and Benjamin. If I am bereaved, I am bereaved!”

So once again we find the brothers standing before Joseph. When Joseph sees Benjamin with them, he tells his steward, “Take these men to my home, and slaughter an animal and make ready; for these men will dine with me at noon.”

As you can imagine, this brought great fear to the brothers hearts. The first time they had stood before this Egyptian leader, they had been accused of being spies. Now they show up, and are immediately taken to his house to eat. They had no way of knowing if they were being set up.

At this point, only Joseph knew what was getting ready to happen. He had one more test that he was going to put his brothers through to be sure that they were sincere and trustworthy.

At times in our life we may go through times of testing. Although it may not be to the degree that Joseph's brothers endured, we will still have periods of testing and hardship. It's easy to become fearful, not knowing what is going on or what the outcome is going to be. But we can be assured that God knows what He is doing, and is aware of what is taking place. We may wonder if any good can possibly come of our circumstances. That is when we have to put our complete trust and faith in God. If we will remain steadfast and faithful, He will work all things together for our good.

JON'S PERSPECTIVE:

It's a very important part of the history of Joseph and his family that they each had a time of testing and tribulation. Luke 4 has the parable of the sower. To keep it short, a gardener tosses seeds out to grow his food. Some seed lands in good soil and produces well. But other seeds fall on the hard path, rocky ground, or weedy ground. Those seeds were lost. The analogy is that when someone teaches others about Jesus, the people he tells may gain from it or not. Jesus explains to his twelve disciples that the seed that fall on the rocky dirt represent people who “when they hear the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and they have no root in themselves, and so endure only for a time. Afterward, when tribulation or persecution arise for the word's sake, immediately they stumble.” [Luke 4:16,17]

There are many who would convince you that if you really had faith, you would never experience tribulation or persecution. That's not what Jesus said. Please don't set anyone else up (or yourself) to doubt themselves as soon as they do have tribulation or persecution. Suffering is hard enough, without feeling like you're faith has failed, too.

ON THE MENEWE:

Sausage Potato Wraps

1 lb. Pork sausage

½ c. milk

1 (24 oz.) pkg. Frozen O'Brien Hash Brown potatoes

Salt and pepper, to taste

4 eggs

12 (8 inch) flour tortillas

Cheddar cheese

Sour cream and salsa (opt.)

In skillet, cook sausage until no longer pink; drain, then put back into pan. Add potatoes; cook until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Beat the eggs, milk, salt and pepper together in a small bowl; add to the sausage/potato mixture. Cook until eggs are completely set, stirring frequently. Divide mixture between tortillas, sprinkle with cheese, then roll up tightly. Place in a greased 9x13 baking dish. You can either microwave, uncovered, on high for 3-5 minutes or individually for 45 seconds, to heat thoroughly. Or you can cover with aluminum foil and put in 350 oven for 10 minutes. Serve with sour cream and salsa, if desired.

LAUGHING LAMBS:

I am not the most graceful of women. In fact, my husband thinks I'm a bit of a klutz. It could be because I've been known to knock my glass or plate over, or dribble food down the front of my shirt, or trip and fall (on flat ground and stairs).

My latest adventure happened a few days ago. We have a big trash cart on wheels. The evening before trash day, I was rolling it through the garage to the back of our house, to load up the last of the bags filled with debris from cleanup after the December ice storm. There is a small ledge in the doorway. I was behind the cart pushing and it was stuck and wouldn't go. So I gave it a hard shove...and it certainly went that time! It went flying onto it's side and the lid flew open and I went flying along right behind it. I landed on my hands and knees and my leg hit the edge of the lid. I ended up with a big bruise on the front of my left leg, two on my knee, one of my right knee, and one on my right arm.

Of course, this incident didn't happen quietly. I glanced over, and there in our neighbors back yard, right by the fence between our houses, was their son, who is in his early twenties. He pretended to not see the whole escapade, but I don't see how he could have missed it. Thankfully, I was half in and half out of the garage when I landed, so he only saw my front half. I wondered later if he felt sorry for me and had pity, because we also had some limbs stacked up behind our house and he volunteered to burn them for us, if we would throw them over the fence.

THOUGHT TO PONDER:

If you were gifted with a brand new car, and brought it home, only to park it inside the garage and never use it, how much worth would that gift actually have? Yet many accept the gift of salvation, only to lock it away and hide it, and never use nor utilize it.

OUR HEARTFELT THANKS TO YOU:

Have we told you thanks lately?! We really do appreciate each of you and thank you for reading our weekly newsletter.

We love you!

Loretta & Jon

E-Mail: shepherd@grayengineers.com

http://www.graysheep.org