Genesis 43:16-34 A leader must perform the dual roles of provider and disciplinarian
When Joseph saw Benjamin with them, he said to his house steward, “Bring the men into the house, and slay an animal and make ready; for the men are to dine with me at noon.” 17 So the man did as Joseph said, and brought the men to Joseph’s house. 18 Now the men were afraid, because they were brought to Joseph’s house; and they said, “It is because of the money that was returned in our sacks the first time that we are being brought in, that he may seek occasion against us and fall upon us, and take us for slaves with our donkeys.” 19 So they came near to Joseph’s house steward, and spoke to him at the entrance of the house, 20 and said, “Oh, my lord, we indeed came down the first time to buy food, 21 and it came about when we came to the lodging place, that we opened our sacks, and behold, each man’s money was in the mouth of his sack, our money in full. So we have brought it back in our hand. 22 We have also brought down other money in our hand to buy food; we do not know who put our money in our sacks.” 23 He said, “Be at ease, do not be afraid. Your God and the God of your father has given you treasure in your sacks; I had your money.” Then he brought Simeon out to them. 24 Then the man brought the men into Joseph’s house and gave them water, and they washed their feet; and he gave their donkeys fodder. 25 So they prepared the present for Joseph’s coming at noon; for they had heard that they were to eat a meal there.
26 When Joseph came home, they brought into the house to him the present which was in their hand and bowed to the ground before him. 27 Then he asked them about their welfare, and said, “Is your old father well, of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?” 28 They said, “Your servant our father is well; he is still alive.” They bowed down in homage. 29 As he lifted his eyes and saw his brother Benjamin, his mother’s son, he said, “Is this your youngest brother, of whom you spoke to me?” And he said, “May God be gracious to you, my son.” 30 Joseph hurried out for he was deeply stirred over his brother, and he sought a place to weep; and he entered his chamber and wept there. 31 Then he washed his face and came out; and he controlled himself and said, “Serve the meal.” 32 So they served him by himself, and them by themselves, and the Egyptians who ate with him by themselves, because the Egyptians could not eat bread with the Hebrews, for that is loathsome to the Egyptians. 33 Now they were seated before him, the firstborn according to his birthright and the youngest according to his youth, and the men looked at one another in astonishment. 34 He took portions to them from his own table, but Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as any of theirs. So they feasted and drank freely with him.
The brothers came back to Egypt with the expectation of having Simeon released and returning home with fresh supplies. But never did they expect to dine with the man and catch a brief insight as to Joseph’s true identity. Here, Joseph performs the dual roles of provider and disciplinarian while keeping his human sentiments at bay. In today’s devotion, we learn that a leader must necessarily perform the dual roles of provider and disciplinarian. And he must learn to set aside his human sentiments in order to lead his people effectively.
“Bring the men into the house, and slay an animal and make ready; for the men are to dine with me at noon.”
The sight of Benjamin triggered notions of brotherly sentiments prompting the instructions to bring the men into the house, and slay an animal… An invitation to dine was not what the brothers had anticipated, for they merely hoped for Simeon’s return and fresh food supplies. They have been given hostile treatment in their first journey and to be given royal treatment now is beyond comprehension. Hence, they were prepared for the worst, to be taken captive and enslaved.
The brothers took hold of the opportunity to explain the mysterious money to exonerate themselves. The house steward reassured them that the mysterious money was in fact a gesture of goodwill and divine provision. The brothers, being relieved of their worst fears entered Joseph’s house and given a warm welcome. They settled down and did their utmost to prepare their gift for the man of the land.
When Joseph came home, they brought into the house to him the present which was in their hand and bowed to the ground before him.
Joseph’s entrance was greeted with homage as the brothers bowed to the ground before him. The disparity in status, power and knowledge between Joseph and his brothers is overwhelmingly graphic. Joseph dominates and surpasses his brothers in every aspect, giving him power over their fate and their very existence. However, we will see the legacy of Judah surpassing that of Joseph in future generations.
This scene presents a discrepancy between the dream where his eleven brothers and his parents bow down to him. No doubt, there is now eleven, but still no parents, which prompts the question, “Is your old father well, of whom you spoke? Is he still alive?” When Joseph lifted his eyes and saw his brother Benjamin, he spoke warmly and affectionately to them. Just then, his affection towards his younger brother stirred up for he was on the verge of disclosing his private feelings. He excused himself and sought a place to weep. Joseph’s action speaks of his intention to keep his true identity from them. For there is still unresolved issues that required him to assert imperial authority unaffected by human and familial sentiments.
So they feasted and drank freely with him.
Joseph called for the meal to be served. Joseph separated himself from his brothers as was customary, for all foreigners were considered loathsome and inferior to the Egyptians. Nevertheless, surprise turned to amazement when the brothers found themselves seated in the order of their age. By this time, Joseph is seen to be working towards a full disclosure of his true identity allowing the brothers brief insight into his true identity. A bigger portion for young Benjamin consummated his longing to discharge his brotherly duty that was abruptly taken from him. He took portions to them from his own table signals the crossing over to familial territory towards brotherly fellowship. Under divine providence, the formerly fractured family emerged a bonded family beaming with integrity, and love. “So they feasted and drank freely with him” speaks of an endearing peace among themselves. And the scene is set for the assembling of the remaining two: Joseph’s parents.
A leader must perform the dual roles of provider and disciplinarian
God has called His leaders to shepherd His flock with skilful hands by performing the dual roles of provider and disciplinarian. By virtue of man’s tendency towards sin, discipline is necessary as part of the leader’s toolbox. Without the mandate to discipline which entails suffering, man will not learn to put off the inclinations of the flesh.
Joseph is tasked to heal the fractured family and their moral decline by acting as disciplinarian. At the same time, he provided for their physical needs and saved the family from the famine. So much so his actions appear conflicted and incoherent; he is harsh at one moment and friendly at the another. And without warning, he was again harsh and unreasoning. Although the two roles appear contrived and irreconcilable, they head in the same direction. The two roles are likened to two rails of a train track, they are separated but connected, working in synergy.
There is a grave misconception among the churches that the incarnation of Jesus has put an end to the discipline of God; the cross has once and for all nullified the demands of the law. These churches insist that in the dispensation of grace, God, the Judge has been eclipsed by Jesus, the Saviour. Thus, they misrepresented Jesus as having come to appease the angry God by taking the punishment on humanity’s behalf.
Unfortunately, this doctrinal error has contributed to much confusion among church leaders concerning the nature of their leadership. But the bible is explicitly clear that in the last days, Jesus will come to judge His people. Jesus said,
“For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son… and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man.” John 5:22,27
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 2 Corinthians 5:10
Indeed, Jesus will continue to function as Saviour and Judge, as Provider and Disciplinarian to His people and humanity at large. Thus, it is important to understand that God has called all leaders and disciple makers to be vessels of both divine provision and discipline. And He discharges His roles through His faithful servants in the Old and New Testaments. In the Old Testament, Moses is given authority to judge, Jesus said to them, “Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope.” John 5:45.
Jesus said that His followers will sit on thrones to judge the world (see Matthew 19:28). The early church saw the apostles performing the role of disciplinarians. In the case of Ananias and Sapphira (see Acts 5:1-11), the death of the couple has brought the fear of God to the people because of the discipline. Luke recorded,
And great fear came over the whole church, and over all who heard of these things… But none of the rest dared to associate with them; however, the people held them in high esteem. At the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people… And all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number. Acts 5:11-14.
It is evident that the famine brought on by God, and the skilful discipline brought on by Joseph have sanctified and united the holy family.
That said, the human tendency is to play the role of provider while relinquishing the role of disciplinarian to God. However, spiritual authority involves giving and taking (see Job 1:21). A leader cannot choose to give while refusing to take away. Nevertheless, as a leader matures in love and wisdom, God entrusts to him divine authority to provide as well as to discipline so that the people may yield the blessed fruit of righteousness (see Hebrews 12:11).
Nevertheless, performing dual roles (of provider and disciplinarian) requires divine wisdom and discernment. Usually, when a christian no longer listens to sound advice or heed the calls of repentance, the shepherd must proceed with disciplinarian measures. This, he does through divine discernment, and by the expressed directives of God. This can be observed in the days of Elijah when God instructed him to pray for famine to come upon Israel and there was no rain for three years (see 1 Kings 17:1). This can also be seen when Paul delivers immoral christians to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus (see 1 Corinthians 5:5). Jesus Himself said that “it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.” Matthew 5:30.
Leadership requires the setting aside of human sentiments
That said, why is it important to set aside human sentiments when exercising leadership? We exhibit sentiments by virtue of our humanity. Human sentiments are legitimate in that it function as glue connecting people to one another. And they facilitate peace and harmony within the community. However, human sentiments must operate on the foundations of truth and obedience. That is why human sentiments must at times be put aside whenever truth and obedience to divine directives are violated.
Joseph is seen struggling with his human sentiments while he discharges his roles as provider and disciplinarian, as saviour and judge for the holy family. For him to rule and to continue to demand absolute obedience, he has to put aside concerns of human relationship and maintain his imperial appearance. When his heart throbbed at the sight of young Benjamin, he has to keep his head by retreating to his inner chamber. Human relationships, for the unskilled hinders leadership and is mutually exclusive. For them, the closer they get to the people, the harder it is to demand obedience. This is because divine wisdom is at most times counter intuitive to human reasoning. And the exercise of authority diametrically opposed to the grain of relationships. Discipline is more than often misconstrued as an act of hostility rather than an act of love. But God disciplines the one he loves and chastises all his sons (see Hebrews 12:6).
That said, human sentiments when put in its right place need not hinder our work as shepherds and leaders to His people. A good example will be the doctor and patient relationship. Everyone knows that a surgeon inflicts a wound so that the sick may be healed. Therefore, it is pertinent for leaders of the church to teach and to set the right expectations concerning their roles. In so doing, all relationships are placed in a right setting useful for discipline towards holiness and lasting prosperity.
As a parent or leader in your community, do you choose between the roles depending on who you are dealing with? This is because you are driven by human sentiments rather than by divine wisdom. To those who are important you, you gravitate towards the provider role because you are afraid to offend them. But to those who are weaker and less important, you to take the disciplinarian approach because they can be dispensed of. If you display such traits, you are easily manipulated and cannot be entrusted with divine authority.
You can begin by trying to understand how God deals with you: In what situation is He ever a provider? And in what situation is He a disciplinarian? Allow God to speak the truth to you in love through the word. When you have seen the fruits of His discipline, and have benefitted from it, you can begin to play the dual roles of provider and disciplinarian. Your children and disciples will begin to love God more and to fear Him because of your loving discipline.
Dear Lord, I thank you for providing for me and chastising me when I have strayed. Teach me divine wisdom and help me to feel secure in your love. Teach me to play dual roles of provider and disciplinarian in my family, in my workplace and in my church. Entrust me with wisdom and authority to regenerate my people. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.