The Family of God - George H. Warnock
Prisoners Of The Lord
What do we mean, "prisoners," in this day and hour, and in this fair land of ours where we can do as we please, and live as we wish, and enjoy the fat of the land?
We are not really talking so much about the first degree of Joseph's imprisonment... his natural prison... but the second degree, "His soul was laid in irons..."
We mean that when we take His Name upon us, and dedicate ourselves to do His will... that freedom to do as we wish, to work where we will, to live as we please, to go into ministry for the Lord or work at our jobs, to travel as we will, or to stay home as we will... these are no longer options that are open to us. For God's chosen ones the constraint is at first very grievous. Because "serving the Lord" has taken on a "ministerial" connotation, and you are not really "serving the Lord" in the concept of many unless you are literally wearing yourself out for God. The world is your parish. The air-waves are the media by which you must send the Gospel to the four corners of the earth. The fields are white unto harvest, and you consider yourself to be lord of the harvest.
We know that God does use many, many methods to send forth the Truth, and we are not criticizing any of these methods if God has ordained them. But before we can be the kind of "servants" that God wants us to be He wants us to know that first of all we are "sons" in Father's family; and as such we are not FREE to do as we see fit, just because we are "sons of the King." This seems to he the general concept. Rather, "sons of the King" must be subjected to a far greater measure and kind of discipline than ordinary citizens of the land. Their training is much more specialized, and the discipline that they must come under is much more stringent than what is involved in the upbringing of ordinary children. They are destined to rule and reign... and if they do not learn special discipline, hardship, patience, obedience, God knows they will never be able to hold the reins of government in His Kingdom.
Of course in the natural order the parents of royalty have revealed to their children what our Father often hides from us. They know what they are being subjected to, and why. And they get regular leave of absence to come home and enjoy the benefits of royalty. With you and me it may be quite different. We find ourselves like Joseph, and as we shall see later, like Simeon, like Benjamin, like Job... in prison-houses, or suddenly becoming a bondslave... and we do not know who is doing it, or why. Where did I sin? Why me? I am a seer, I am a prophet, I get dreams and interpretations... why am I suddenly in a prison-house in Egypt, for no fault of my own? Or like Simeon later... Why should I have to spend months (or years, for all he knew) here in Egypt, a prisoner of Pharaoh, and my brothers can go merrily on their way home to their father in Canaan. Why me? Or like Benjamin... I just came down here because the lord of the land requested it, and now he frames me, and accuses me of theft, and I am to be his bond-slave. Or like Jacob back in Canaan, who was also in captivity, a slave to his own ideas, his own concepts, his own understanding... and yet all the while he was totally wrong: "Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and now you will take Benjamin away. All these things are against me!" Or like Job, in desolation and captivity, not only to his bodily affliction, but to his reasonings, his concepts, his misunderstanding of God's ways.
His soul has been laid in iron. "God," he says, "has set me up as His target, and He's shooting His arrows at me... God is out to get me... and I don't know why, because I love Him with all my heart..."
The King's Prisoners
The time came when Joseph found himself transferred to the place "where the king's prisoners were bound." Joseph knew that he was the prisoner of the king of Egypt... but did he know that he was the prisoner of the King of kings? He really did not know the implications of his transfer to the king's ward at the time; but he would understand later. He was really being favored of the Lord. Unknown to him, his contact with his fellow-prisoners would one day be known at the throne, and would be the key to his deliverance.
You and I might know that we are in the ward of the king, as Joseph did. But like Joseph we do not always know that we are in the ward of the King of kings. But we must come to this realization, if we are going to find release for our soul from the irons of affliction.
Paul writes to the Ephesians, "I therefore the prisoner of the Lord..." This is what released him from his captivity. Still a prisoner, yes, still in a prison cell in Rome; but now he is a free man, because he knows he is a prisoner of the Lord. For who is free, but the man who recognizes that his situation, his present circumstance, grievous and evil as it may be in the natural, is really one that has been ordained of God for the release of his soul? Who is free, but that man who knows he is really a prisoner, in captivity to his Lord?
Paul may never have discovered the real purpose of his imprisonment; but by faith he knew that God put him there. Little did he realize, as he satin his prison cell and wrote to the different churches, that he was really writing to the Church of every generation that would live from that day to the end of time.
He did know that the word of God was not bound, as he knew he was. But he did not know that the Word that he sent forth to a few hundred people here and there throughout Asia... would later become a part of the Holy Scriptures, and go forth to multiplied millions, scattered throughout the whole world to the end of time.
Two of Pharaoh's officers are suddenly thrust into the prison cell with Joseph; and one night each of them dreamed a strange dream. They recognized the dreams to be supernatural, and therefore it left them troubled, because they had no idea what they meant. Joseph noticed their distress, and asked them about it. Then they confessed--they were bothered about their dreams. At Joseph's request they bared their hearts, and told him what they had dreamed.
Immediately Joseph had the interpretation, For the one it meant restoration to his office as the king's butler, but for the other it meant execution. And both these things were to happen after three days.
"Remember me," Joseph said to the butler, "You will be back in the good graces of the king... Put in a good word for me, and get me out of here."
At last, he was beginning to make some kind of contact with the authorities. I have contacts now! Perhaps I will be out of here soon! But time rolls by... a week... two weeks... two months... a year... two years... But the butler had completely forgotten him!
If we are in the place "where the King's prisoners are bound," let us be thankful for that. But let us never put our confidence or our trust in our fellow-prisoners. Minister to them, or be ministered to by them... yes. Love them, care for their needs as Joseph did, as a faithful prisoner-steward. But our trust and confidence must be in the Lord alone. The butler completely forgot about Joseph, which seems strange to us as we consider it. God must have caused him to forget so notable an event.
God certainly uses the various contacts we make in every day life, for some purpose known only to Him; and He was going to use this contact that Joseph had made with the butler, But He does not want us to put our confidence in anything, or anyone but Himself. We must look to Him for every benefit we receive, or ever hope to receive. We must never transfer our hopes from the Source of every good and perfect gift... to the channel. We thank the Lord for every channel of His provision; but our confidence cannot be placed in the CHANNEL, but in the FOUNTAIN.
If the spring that quenches the thirst of the prophet dries up, it is only that he might look to God for his next supply. It was God that opened the spring, and it was God who shut it off. And the God who provided the spring is still alive. Don't put your trust in riches, or in rich men... either in church life, or in your personal dealings in the world. God does have stewards in His House, who recognize that all they have is the Lord's. But our confidence must be in God alone, and not in some affluent steward. God often has to send the man of God to the house of a widow woman for bread and water. We thank the Lord for the ravens He once used; but we must not lament when they stop flying over our head and dropping our daily bread. They must not become objects of esteem or veneration. God put it into their heads to feed the prophet for a season. But if they cut off the flow of provision, they are not able to sever our contact with El Shaddai, the God of provision and supply. The God who provided the spring, and who sent the ravens, is still alive, and watching over His chosen ones.
Two full years have gone by. Enough time for Joseph to lose all confidence in the butler, and to renew his confidence in God alone.
Then one day it happened. He had been in prison (or at least in captivity) for thirteen years. His day had arrived.
It was a day like any other day. No premonition that his days of imprisonment were just about over. No sign that things were really getting better and better. It was a day like any other prison-day; the monotonous and routine duties of the prison-life lay before him as he awakened in the morning...
But suddenly the prison doors swing open, and one of Pharaoh's servants stands before him and orders him to shave, clean-up, and put on some clean clothes. He has an appointment with Pharaoh, the lord of the land of Egypt.
Joseph stands before Pharaoh and hears the king of Egypt with troubled heart relating to him his strange dreams, about thin cows and fat cows... thin ears of corn, and fat ears of corn. The same enablement that he knew in years past was there in his heart and mind. The prophetic mantle which he had known as a young lad at home with his father, was still upon him... scarcely used in those thirteen years of prison-life, but nonetheless vital and genuine; and no doubt much more pure than it would have been if he had gone about the land those thirteen years giving revelations and prophecies and interpreting dreams and visions.
God's prisoners are not "out of the ministry." Rather, they are in extra-curricular training for a more pure and more vital form of ministry.
Do not fret about "fulfilling" your ministry. But do be very concerned lest you go forth in ministry unprepared, and without thorough immunization to the tests and temptations that come to one who has found popularity with people, and praise from the lips of men. It is more important that you be dedicated to the will of God, than that you be dedicated to the fulfillment of a ministry, For if you are dedicated to do the will of God... and if this should lead you to a prison-house... then the ministry that comes forth from the prison-house will be pure, vital, timely, powerful, and profitable to the Kingdom of God.
The dreams were about fat cows, and skinny cows... fat ears of corn, and skinny, blasted ears of corn. The skinny cows ate up the fat cows but remained as skinny as ever, and the skinny ears of corn devoured the fat ones, and remained as skinny as ever. Pharaoh knew that only God could give dreams like that.
A Pure Ministry Is To Come Forth
One thing that stands out in importance in the lives of God's chosen ones in their pursuit of the will of God, is the TIMING. Jesus would say, "My time is not yet come..." With the general run of ministry in the church it could be said, "Their time is always ready..." In fact that is considered to be a sign of their spirituality--always ready, always anxious to be out there doing something for God. I am a teacher, I want to keep busy teaching. I am a prophet, I want to be out there prophesying. I am an evangelist, I must not have any idle moments... there are open doors everywhere... I must get going...
But how wonderful it is when we begin to learn a little of God's ways, and we discover that God's WAYS and God's TIMING are as vital to the WILL OF GOD, as the performance of the thing that God has in mind. So few there are who recognize this. Perhaps there is much good ministry in the land. It is genuine enough. But a lot of it is not related to the moving of God's Spirit. There are specific needs amongst God's people. And God has specific ministry to meet those needs. And how we need to learn to move in coordination and conformity to the sovereign moving of the Holy Spirit in the midst of the Church, in order to meet those needs.
We are coming into a new phase of life and ministry in the Church of Jesus Christ, wherein the Holy Spirit will be recognized by the people of God and by the ministry as the Lord of the Church in the midst of His people. Christ at God's right hand is the Lord of the Church; and the Holy Spirit living and abiding in His Church, is the LORD IN THE MIDST OF HIS PEOPLE. And He will yet exercise that Lordship in our midst.
Of course, this is the Holy of Holies realm, and we know that all of God's people will not walk in this realm. But some will--some must enter in. The Holy Place is the realm of gift and ministry, and is essential for the nourishing of the Body of Christ. And we certainly must go THROUGH this realm to enter into the HOLIEST of all. There is no back door to the HOLIEST OF ALL!
People say to us, "We need these gifts... we need these ministries..." Of course we need His gifts! But usually what they mean is, "We only need His gifts of power," and they fail to realize that the greater gifts are those which ARE STANDING BEFORE THE VEIL AND SHOWING GOD'S PEOPLE THE ENTRANCE TO THE BETTER WAY, THE MORE EXCELLENT WAY! They stand at the Golden Altar... the place of intercession and prayer on behalf of God's people; or they seek to trim the lamps of the Candlestick, and furnish them with oil, that God's people might know how to ENTER BEYOND THE VEIL! Not the Veil that was rent on the Cross many years ago, but in reality that same Veil, though it is now on the hearts of God's people. And God's precious gifts are being ministered by His chosen ones... words of wisdom, words of knowledge, words of faith, words of prophecy: words of revelation by the Spirit to encourage His people to enter THE HOLIEST OF ALL! These gifts are the CHANNELS of Truth; but now we must move forward to the SOURCE. They are but the MEANS to the END. They are intended to lead us into abiding, fruitful UNION WITH HIM WHO IS THE SOURCE of every spiritual gift and grace. We are talking about giving up the PART FOR THE WHOLE, of GOING FORTH FROM THE LESSER REALM TO THE GREATER, and into union with HIM WHO IS THE SOURCE!
A pure ministry unto the Lord is going to come forth. Many who are chosen of the Lord for this hour are not particularly attempting to fulfil their ministry. They have chosen rather to be obedient to God, and this has served to purify their ministry unto the Lord. And therefore they are precious and peculiar in His sight. As it was in Israel of old, the true priests of the Lord have no inheritance of their own. They seek only to bring others into their particular inheritance in God. They themselves can have no inheritance... no kingdom that they might build... no congregations or groups of people that they can call "theirs"... nothing that they can call by their name, and leave as an inheritance to others. And why did God deny them all this? Because God desired that He alone would be their inheritance!
"Therefore shall they have no inheritance among their brethren: THE LORD IS THEIR INHERITANCE" (Deut. 18:2).
The Purpose of God... the Will of God... the Servant of God... the Timing of God. Today was that day when all these aspects of the workings of God would meet together! And by the Spirit of revelation Joseph not only clearly interpreted the dreams, but with discretion and spiritual understanding gave counsel and guidance to the king of Egypt, as to what he must do to save the land from starvation. There would be seven years of great plenty, followed by seven years of great dearth. The dearth would be so intense that the seven bountiful years that they were about to experience would not even be known or recognized when the days of famine were over... and the land would be poor and devastated. But there would be provision for the people in that day, because of the provision that they were to make. Therefore Joseph advised, "Choose out a man, a man of wisdom and discretion, and have him lay up in store the bounty of the land for the grievous days of famine that lie before us."
Pharaoh and his servants knew immediately it was the voice of God. There was no doubt in their minds as to what they must do. "JOSEPH, YOU ARE THE MAN!"
"Moreover He called for a famine upon the land; He brake the whole staff of bread. HE SENT A MAN before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant, whose feet they hurt with fetters: he was laid in iron; until the time that His word came: the word of the LORD tried him. The king sent and loosed him; even the ruler of the people and let him go free. He made him lord of his house, and ruler of all his substance: to bind his princes at his pleasure; and teach his senators wisdom" (Psa. 105:17-22).
If we could only see things from God's standpoint, what a difference it would make in our own perspective! But God does not allow this to happen until the prison-days are over. Were He to do so, perhaps we would very likely frustrate in our own lives the beautiful work that God had in mind. If I knew that thirteen years down the road there would be a great deliverance, a great visitation... how would I react? Make myself as comfortable as I can for the next thirteen years, and then look to God for the help He promised? Or would I really live in hope and expectation?
"How long, O Lord, before you come forth and manifest your salvation?"
"Why do you tarry so long? What are you waiting for? I am ready to go forth in your Name. Why don't you equip me for the task?"
And these questions, if truly born of the Spirit, will continue to work in our lives that needful preparation for the day of His visitation. It was so with Joseph. It was so with David. It has been so with God's chosen ones through the ages. They must live by faith. To live by sight will not bring them to a place of preparedness. Do not get fascinated by dates and figures that men have discovered... that seem to fit in with God's time-table. It may be right. But this will not prepare you for that hour. We must live in faith, in hope, in expectation. For "tribulation worketh patience, and patience, experience (or, a sense of God's approval), and experience HOPE..." This is the process. "What a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?" If you see it, then hope cannot germinate and mature, and prepare the heart. It is in "not seeing it," and yet believing, that you will discover the unspeakable joy of HOPE.
But now Joseph can see the picture in proper perspective, from God's standpoint. It was not Joseph's brothers that were to blame for his troubles. It was not Potiphar's wife, who lied about him and hated him because of the integrity of his heart, that landed him in prison. All this was part of the scaffolding... the props. All this was simply the outworking of evil that exists in the hearts of men... and which God turns to His glory in your life and mine as we recognize that the kingdom of Satan is very actively seeking to undermine and frustrate the purposes of God. But for His beloved ones God takes every evil device, every evil scheme, turns it about for His own glory, and causes it to work along with His own beautiful plan.
It was God who sent the man of God into Egypt... And it was the Word of the LORD that tried him so severely.
Your Vision becomes your trial. Your Vision becomes your Cross. And perhaps we can say, the higher and the more pure your Vision, so the greater will be your Cross. And so will that vessel come forth from the furnace of affliction... more pure, more vital, more important to the Kingdom of God... a "vessel unto honor, sanctified, and meet for the Master's use, and prepared unto every good work" (2 Tim. 2:21). It is more important to be "useable" for the Master, than to attempt to be "used." It is more important to be "prepared" unto every good work, than to attempt to get involved in every good work.
The Stage Is Set
The stage is now set for the great drama that is about to unfold in the reconciliation of the Family of God; and Joseph is the key to the whole situation.
Joseph knows that the real purpose of his lordship over the land of Egypt is to bring deliverance to his own brothers, and to bring about a reconciliation in the whole family. But he does not seek them out, though he might have done so with the authority and privileges he now enjoyed. Seven years of plenty go by, and two years of famine... but Joseph does not go searching for his family in the nine years he has been in office. We may wonder why.
As we begin to move in the realm of the Spirit we become more and more aware of the fact that the pressing needs, the open doors, the evil circumstances that exist... all these are first and foremost God's concern; and we can only truly bear the "burden of the Lord" as He lays it upon us. Of course, we must first of all take His yoke upon us, if we are going to share His burden; for God has given every man a "burden" to bear in the Body of Christ. But we must know it is really our "light affliction" that we bear, as we share His yoke; for Jesus said, "My yoke is easy, and my burden is light." True, the burden may be very "heavy"... but we have to know it is Christ's burden, before it becomes ours, and after it becomes ours; and this is what makes it "easy." We just know that the Spirit of God is in charge. We just know that only as we walk in the Spirit and do His will and take His yoke, will we be enabled to perform the desires of His heart.
I am persuaded that we can accomplish far more in ONE DAY in the yoke of Christ, than we could accomplish in a whole lifetime bearing a yoke of our own making.
Now what about the "burden" of the Body of Christ, and of bringing the Family of God into UNITY? It must be our "burden" because we know it is His. And the Spirit of God is here in His Church in Christ's stead... to accomplish and bring into being that which is the burden of Christ. I can safely leave the Family of God to Him, and by His grace be READY and PREPARED for the day and the hour that God has chosen for the reconciliation of the Family of God. And I know...
This Is Going To Take A Famine
It is going to take a FAMINE to reconcile the Family of God. I am sure of that. Tapes, tapes, and more tapes... Books, books, and more books. And now videos, and more videos. Never has there been such a supply of the Word, as we find in the earth today. A lot of mixture, I know... but a lot of provision too. And there is a Joseph people who are laying it up in store. And of course I don't mean cataloguing the books and the tapes so they can refer to them in the day of famine. I mean, in themselves, there is a Joseph people who are submitting to the furnace of affliction, and are thereby becoming a storehouse of plenty, for the day of famine... locked up and sealed that they might open up and bring forth bread for the hungry in the day of famine.
Right now the Family of Jacob is pretty self-confident. They are in Canaan, feasting upon the good things of the land, and very confident. But there is a famine at the door...
"Not a famine for bread, Nor a thirst for water...
But of HEARING the words of the LORD"
Not a famine of the words of the LORD; but a famine of HEARING those words. Jesus said, "Take heed how ye hear." There is an abundance of the Word, and it increases day by day, but it is getting more and more difficult for people to really HEAR what God is saying in this hour.
But self-confidence continues to prevail. "We are the Family of God, and God loves us, and we are getting along pretty good..."
That Christ has been betrayed and sold, few seem to recognize. It doesn't seem to bother them in the least...
That Christ has been sold for church temples, entertainment, gimmicks, and all manner of religious trash...
That the Song of the Lord, which proceeds from hearts that have been offered unto the Lord as a burnt offering, has been sold for jazz, rock music, polished musical talent...
That the Lordship of His Spirit has (in many, many cases) been sold for the lordship of some strong church leader, perhaps even for an apostle or prophet who exercises authoritarian control over the people...
That the Worship of God in Spirit and in Truth has been sold for a form of programmed worship, for drama and make-believe, for musical entertainment... and we could go on and on as we behold the many fleshly and carnal and sometimes devilish things that have driven Christ out of the Church!
That ministry is available for hire, and ministries are brought in that require large financing in order to stay in business...
That the House of God has become a den of thieves, as gifts and ministries of God are sold and bartered to the people for money, or for the applause of men.
No, Christ is not being sold for thirty pieces of silver these days. The Devil is bidding much higher today, and Christ is being sold for thousands, even millions of dollars... as men and women sell their gifts, or their ministries, or their Rock or their Jazz, for large sums of money to gullible Christians.
The Day of Famine is going to change all that. And I think we are fast approaching that Day... when the people of God are going to go searching for bread. And they are going to find it nowhere, but in the storehouses of Joseph in Egypt.
Joseph The Stranger
Finally the famine caught up with the Family of Jacob living in Canaan; and Jacob sent his sons down into Egypt to buy bread. Jacob would not let Benjamin go with them, because he was special to Jacob (being the full brother of Joseph, and the only son of Rachel his beloved, that was yet alive).
Joseph recognized his brethren as they stood before him; for they were much older than him, and he was but a young lad when he was sold into Egypt and had changed a lot. Besides, he was dressed in royal garb, and spoke the language of Egypt, and had a strange Egyptian name, Zaph-nath-paaneah.
What did this strange man do? Run to them and say, "Glad to see you my brothers! Remember me? I am Joseph your brother whom you sold into Egypt... but it's all right now... let bygones be bygones..."
We have this foolish ecumenicism idea creeping in, even among the real people of God. "Look for every opportunity you can find for fellowship. Don't be so exclusive. Don't let differences Interfere, or what you believe... just try and get along with the rest of the Family of God..."
We love God's people, and we have no problem getting along with God's people, or with business people in the world as far as that goes. But where is the fellowship? John said...
"But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, WE HAVE FELLOWSHIP ONE WITH ANOTHER" (John 1:7).
There is not necessarily any fellowship sitting side-by-side with two thousand people in a church building. Fellowship means a sharing, a communication in spiritual things, a receiving and a giving... back and forth in the Spirit. Not necessarily everyone with a little sermon. Not necessarily everyone doing something every time you come together. But there is a mutual concern one for the other, a seeking after God for His way, a pursuing of the Vision of God, a hope, an expectation of the lordship of Christ becoming preeminent in our midst... a desire to walk in the Light. If these elements are not there, there is no FELLOWSHIP. We desire it... we want it... we anticipate it... and in a small measure we have it. But there will be no true fellowship in the midst of God's people until the Spirit of the Lord is given His lordship as we gather together... to cleanse, to purge, to pull down, to overthrow, and to destroy all the idols that have been erected in the house of God.
And I believe it is going to take the Famine to do it. And therefore we anticipate the Famine, because we know it is the only way that the Family of God will be reconciled and purged and cleansed.
The First Confrontation
"And Joseph saw his brethren, and he knew them, but made himself strange unto them, and spake roughly unto them; and he said unto them, Whence come ye? And they said, From the land of Canaan to buy food" (Gen. 42:7).
I have to admit that in years past I felt a little disappointed in Joseph... that instead of throwing his arms around them and blessing them he should act so conceited. "Where are you from?"... and "What do you want?"... and "No! But you are spies, you have just come here to spy out the land and observe all the desolation that we have here." But now I understand that Joseph, in the Spirit of prophecy, was following the leading of the Lord, as this great drama of reconciliation began to unfold.
"O No!" they said, "We are true men." And I think they believed they were. Living together on the fat of the land, in beautiful Canaan, had somehow caused them to forget their hypocrisy, forget their jealousy, forget their treachery... and they were able at this stage to take their place as "true men." You know, the blessing of God was intended to bring men to repentance; but almost invariably the sinful heart of man will misconstrue the blessing of God for His approval of their sinful ways. Paul said, "Do you not realize that the goodness of God was intended to lead you to repentance?" (See Rom. 2:4). Some people would object: "I don't think that is God's way, to send famines to bring them to repentance... God is a good God... He would not do that." God does not want to do it, but if His goodness will not do it, the famine is His only alternative.
We are near that day when He with eyes "as a flame of fire" will rise up in the midst of His people, to reveal and lay bare the secrets of the heart, and to cleanse and purge the Family of God. He will search out the hidden recesses of the heart, and expose the works of darkness that abound in the midst of God's people. And we know there are areas of darkness in all of us. But God is not in the least interested or pleased in having a large congregation stand before Him with hands raised high in praise and worship, while in and through it all the idols of this world are portrayed upon the walls of their heart, and the Lordship of Christ is far from their minds.
It was God who led Joseph to use the "rough" language... to speak to them as a stranger through an interpreter... and all the while he was doing it, his heart was breaking out of love and compassion for them. God was simply leading him step by step in a manner that would expose the iniquity that was in his brethren, and bring them to genuine repentance. I know there is a cry in the land from some sources, and it is good... "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." But until these words come forth in the spirit of prophecy and anointed of the Lord, as they did through John the Baptist, repentance will not be ministered to the people of God. Only God can open the heart and grant the mercy and the grace of repentance. And this is going to take a famine, and a prophetic anointing such as Joseph had, such as John the Baptist had... before we are going to see it.
"You say you have a younger brother," said Zaph-nath-paaneah, "Then go home with food for your families, and when you come again bring your younger brother with you as positive proof. In the meantime I will keep one of you as a hostage."
God was beginning to draw in the net... and Joseph, a prophet of God, was moving in the Spirit, and following the leading of the Lord.
Joseph took Simeon and bound him before their eyes; and put him in ward as a hostage. And the other boys went back home with grain for their families. Not only grain... but the money they had brought in the first place was replaced in their sacks much to their surprise and to their bewilderment. (I know it takes time and money to do anything these days for yourself or for the Lord. But the Joseph people will be characterized by the fact that they will not make merchandise of the things of God.)
Joseph knew the famine would last another five years, but he was making sure that they would return to Egypt soon; so he kept Simeon as a hostage.
Simeon, In Captivity
"Simeon" means "Hearing." God's "Simeons" have the ability to "hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches." God has His Simeons out there who have that enablement; and God will use them in the day of His new visitation. But they too will have to repent for the selling of Christ in this day and hour of His betrayal. Right now for some reason or another, perhaps for the sake of "unity," they are not overly concerned. O there are things that bother them... but what can they do about it? There they are in Canaan, and that is their "home"... their brothers and sisters are all there...
But God knows how to snare His Simeons in the day of famine.
Joseph takes Simeon as a hostage, and he too is cast into prison. Now he's got time to sit and listen.., no cows to look after... no barns to build... he can just sit there and look at the floor and ceiling... and meditate. "What's this all about? Why would God do this to me? I don't deserve this." Simeon has left home, but not of his own doing. He was taken captive, but not of his own will.
God was actually being merciful to him, though he knew it not at the time. He missed his brothers. He missed his children. He missed his father... But he had to admit... the food was good. He was treated reasonably well, but he was a prisoner.
If you have a faculty for hearing the Word of the Lord (and of course I don't mean the ability to hear good sermons and teachings and analyze them)... but if beyond the letter of the Word you have the enablement to hear what God is really saying, rejoice in that. For there are many who have ears to hear, and they hear not. Many that have eyes to see, and they see not.
But even as you rejoice in the good things you are hearing, be prepared for the day and hour when you, too, will become a captive, And in that hour you must know that you are in captivity to your Joseph... your Lord. It may not seem that way... for it will truly be a prison-house, closed doors, iron bars... and you hear nothing from without but strange words, foreign words. Your Joseph may visit you on occasion... or He may not. I do not know. But even if He does He will not tell you who He is, and you will think He is a cruel dictator.
God is in the process of reconciling the Family of Jacob, and now you are part of that process. You cannot run away from your prison if you tried. Besides you brought it upon yourself. I mean, as you sought the Lord, and as you heard His voice, and desired that all other voices would be shut out but His, that you might be wholly shut in with Him alone... so God heard and answered, and brought you into captivity to Himself.
The Second Confrontation
This was all very bitter for Jacob, when the boys returned home without Simeon. Not only that, but on their return to Egypt for corn they were going to have to take Benjamin along. "Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and now ye will take Benjamin away... all these things are against me." But there was no other way; they were at the point of starvation. Jacob was forced to yield. "Take Benjamin and go, and God help us."
Now Benjamin was so named of Jacob because at birth Jacob recognized that here was one who was special to God, even as Joseph was special to God. Joseph means, "He will add"; for when he was born Rachel said, "He will add," and she called him Joseph. As a minister friend once said, "Rachel loved Joseph so much... that even in her sorrow she said, I must have another one". Very unusual for a woman to make that kind of a wish in the moment of travail and sorrow! But God is showing us that in the hour of the travail of Christ that God saw such beauty in Christ, and loved Him so much, that He said, "I must have a family like Him..."
Benjamin was Joseph's full brother. They were Rachel's only children; and in bringing forth Benjamin, Rachel died. This beautiful son was Rachel's "Son of sorrow"... but Jacob renamed him, "Son of my right hand." Benjamin and many of his sons of later generations, would be weak in themselves... but with their left hand in God's right hand, they were the SONS OF THE RIGHT HAND! Benjamin and Joseph are very much identified... and we hear our Lord Jesus saying, "Behold I, and the children Thou hast given Me."
Rachel was barren for many, many years. But God ordained it that way, that in her barrenness God might be glorified. God's special ones in Scripture were often born of "barren" women. For God must have all the glory for that special thing that He would do in the earth. Every true and genuine moving of God's Spirit in the earth comes forth from a barren people. They suffer reproach for their barrenness; and that causes them to seek God more earnestly. And when He comes forth on their behalf God is greatly glorified, and their soul rejoices in God their Saviour in praise and worship such as Leah, and Hagar, and Peninnah, know nothing about.
And so once again the sons of Jacob visit the harsh lord of the land of Egypt... this time with Benjamin along. Joseph's heart yearned over him... but he must move in the flow of the Spirit.
The Family Feasts Together
Joseph has the sons brought to his own home, and a feast is prepared for them. Simeon is brought out of prison, and they are all seated at the table, in the order of their birth. All the sons wondered at the wisdom and knowledge of Zaph-nath-paaneah, who was able to arrange the sitting at the table in the order of their birth. And they feasted and rejoiced together. One family again... all seated at the same table... eating and sharing together, and rejoicing in the renewed relationship one with the other.
But not really ONE yet Not really joined together. Still a wall between them: Joseph at his table, and the sons at theirs. They are getting closer to the day of Joseph's unveiling. But still, they knew him not.
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