Ever had to do something you dreaded doing? And the only thing that made it worse was the idea that you might possibly have to do it again?
That's the situation that faces Judah and the rest of Jacob's sons in Genesis 43(link). Genesis 42 saw the brothers head down to Egypt to buy some grain to survive the famine. We looked at that last week here. That trip cost them a brother: Simeon has remained in Egypt as a hostage to prove that this group of ten Hebrews were not spies. Of course, only nine went home.
The famine, though, has outlasted the grocery trip. Egypt still has food available, something that Canaan does not have. This leaves the family with only a few choices: starve, go back to Egypt for more, or move elsewhere. The simplest solution is to go back to Egypt. Well, simplest once you exclude willfully starving to death. Doing nothing is always an option, and often not the best option.
That leaves move the whole family to an unknown location or send the boys back to Egypt to buy more food. Jacob determines the best course of action is to go where food is known to be: go buy it from Egypt.
Except he is now caught in a dilemma. He has to agree to send Benjamin, whom he does not want to risk, or else Joseph (still unknown to be himself) has threatened all the others with execution if they come back. Finally, Jacob relents and decides to release Benjamin for the trip.
The clinching argument seems to be Judah's in verse 10: we could have been there and back by now. Funny how that phrase can cause many of us to spring into action. All of us realize that, in truth, our time on this earth is limited, and wasting it is disastrous.
They go, with an extra present for Joseph, and purchase food. Read the whole chapter to see how it all turns out—everything goes fairly well. They attempt to return the money from the first trip, expecting it to be an oversight, but are rebuffed and told that all is well.
It is to the idea of we could have been there and back, twice, by now that I wish to return. It is not uncommon that we have to tackle tough jobs. Perhaps even more frequent are the unpleasant ones. While I am no expert, I can imagine that saddling up the camels and trekking from Canaan to Egypt was definitely unpleasant and likely along the tough side as well.
But it had to be done: there was no other real alternative. Sometimes, life runs that way. We see what must be done. We try to avoid it, but there really isn't an option. It just has to be finished.
So, when that comes, tackle the task rather than delay it. Here are a few parts of that I think are worth remembering:
- Remember your prior promises. Like it or not, Judah, Reuben, and the rest were bound to bring Benjamin with them. You could make a good case that they hadn't promised that, but it was the conditions of the deal. They got food and left Simeon; more food would require the presence of Benjamin. If you have left a conditional deal behind, then remember when you get back to the task that you must honor your side of the deal.
- Take responsibility. Much can be made of Judah's prior guilt, but he at least takes personal responsibility for the outcome here. That's a good thing. Take responsibility for getting the task finished.
- Be cautiously optimistic. Good things could happen. So could bad things, but remember: park the car pointed out, but turn the engine off. You probably won't need the getaway. If you go and do what you know needs done, it will often not be as bad as you dread.
- Of course, it could be a disaster. Yet starving to death would be one, too.
Have a great night!