Can One Righteous Man Make a Difference?

Torah Portion for week 10: Genesis 41:1 – 44:17

 מִקֵּץ

Miketz (At the end of)

Can one person who lives faithfully for God make a difference? Previously, we saw that Joseph was sold into slavery and ended up in Egypt. His ability to interpret dreams brought him out of jail and into a position of power. He was second only to Pharaoh. This is a great example of how God “causes all things to work together for good to those who love him,” as it says in Romans 8:28. This theme dominates these chapters of Genesis.

But while Joseph prospered, his family suffered because the famine hit the land of Canaan as well as Egypt. Jacob sent ten of his sons to Egypt to buy grain; only Benjamin stayed at home with him. In Egypt, the ten sons met Joseph. He recognized them, but they had no idea that this Egyptian leader was their long-lost brother. Joseph then accused them of being spies and commanded them to bring Benjamin, who was special to him since they were both children of Rachel, as proof that they were telling the truth. But still the brothers did not recognize Joseph.

God was setting the stage for a later victory. Before the brothers left Egypt, Joseph had engineered a plan to bring Benjamin to Egypt. The brothers went back to Canaan and told Jacob everything that had happened. As the events of these chapters unfold, the brothers become increasingly aware of their sin. In Genesis 42:21 we read, “Then they said to one another, ‘In truth we are guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the distress of his soul, when he begged us and we did not listen. That is why this distress has come upon us.’”

Joseph was not out for revenge. He wanted justice. He wanted his brothers to fully turn back to God. Joseph was a righteous man, and his life impacted many people, even the Pharaoh, who had asked his servants, “Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God?” (Gen 41:38).

This is a remarkable statement. The emphasis on God’s spirit in the life of his people will dominate the later writings of the prophets. But, here in Genesis, only Joseph is described in this way. His godliness influenced everyone from the Egyptians to his own brothers.

This is reminiscent of the words of Yeshua in Matthew 5:14-16, when he said, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Indeed, one person who lives righteously can make a difference.

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