Sovereign God, I’m thankful that, when all is said and done, You are in the beginning because You are the end.
Read GENESIS 47:13-31
Scripture taken from the THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God” (Rom. 12:2, NRSV). What a challenging but important truth!
For many people in my society today, unemployment + benefit cuts + higher utility and food bills = deep debt. Financial journalists report indignantly on the “payday loans” to which many vulnerable people now resort. They have uncovered that, with shameful lack of regulation and uncapped interest rates, these schemes produce a kind of debt slavery, as repayments spiral out of control. Options for survival become increasingly limited, as they did for the Egyptians whose money had “gone” (15,16) in the struggle to survive.
Was Joseph no better than a loan shark benefiting from the dire economic climate there in order to maximize his profits? Was his life of faithful improvisation starting to falter? The Genesis account maintains a neutral stance, while commentators are sharply divided. Joseph’s actions clearly saved thousands of lives (25). Pharaoh now became responsible for feeding his people, so Joseph imposed a tax of only 20 per cent in order to save them, although they were enslaved. (God himself would later legislate for destitute people to sell themselves as hired labor–though never as slaves. See Lev. 25:39,40, 42.) Some even suggest that Pharaoh’s newly acquired powers (20,21) were an outcome of Jacob’s blessing (10). Other commentators point out that Joseph apparently exempted his own people from these harsh measures (27), and that the Hebrew Masoretic scribes seem to have been so embarrassed by v. 21 that they amended it drastically. Centuries after Joseph, God would tell his prophet Samuel to warn the people about the kind of behavior they might expect from the king they were demanding: “He will take … take … take … and you yourselves shall become his slaves” (1 Sam. 8:7-18).
However we understand this episode, it must surely inform our prayers for all who make public policy, and for ourselves as we seek to live faithfully in a complex world.
Father, understanding and applying Your Word can be a tricky business in a complicated world. I pray for discernment and wisdom for myself and for all who make public policy.
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