THE STOREHOUSES OPENED"So with severe famine everywhere in the land, Joseph opened up all the storehouses and sold grain to the Egyptians." Genesis 41:56
He has much to learn, who has not found a garland of delights in Joseph's story. The variety of incident, the rapidly changing scene, the crowded picture of man in every character and every circumstance, make it a choice pleasure-ground for young and old, for peasant and for sage. The sacred pen, pointed by heaven, and deeply dipped in the human heart, enters each chamber, in which feeling dwells. We weep with the weeping father; we grieve in his protracted grief; we revive, when he lives again in his son restored. We tremble with the youth trembling in the pit. We sigh with him sighing in his exile. We take courage with him trampling on his temptation. We are disconsolate with him, disconsolate in his dungeon. We triumph with him, when he surmounts reproach, and takes his seat as the ruler of a mighty empire.
But the grand value of the narrative is not the simple style, the tender pathos, the amazing events, the winding thread of providential arrangement, or the happy end. These lead the mind through luxuriant fields of captivating interest. But if this be all, the profit is as a fading flower, or as a morning gleam. He only gains, who gains a blessing for his soul. The soul is the real man. All else is earthly as earth; and transient as time. The book, the employment, the companion, the scene, which adds not to spiritual store, whatever may be the seeming promise or the present attraction, is an injury, an enemy, a poison, and a blight.
The Scripture before us is precious, because every view of Joseph exhibits Jesus! Who is the envied, and hated, and rejected of his brethren? Who is the sold for pieces of silver; the cast out into Egypt; the numbered with the transgressors; the apparent culprit between two offenders, of whom one is exalted, the other perishes? Who is raised from the prison to the right hand of majesty? In all these outlines, is not Jesus seen? He it is on whose shoulder the government is laid. He it is, who rescues His kindred from perishing. He it is, whose heart yearned over them, when they knew Him not. He it is, to whom the perishing must flee. He it is, who has the key of all supplies. The name is Joseph. The true image is Jesus.
But the text of this chapter limits our view to one feature of this spacious picture. The bounty diffused by Joseph is the bounty which is in Jesus. Let us draw near, then, to this treasury of treasuries. And may the Spirit, sweet in His omnipotence, and omnipotent in His sweetness, open our eyes to see its fullness—and our hands to take of it!
The narrative discloses a universal misery. Affliction in an appalling form brooded over a paralyzed world. The staff of life failed. Hunger presided grimly at every board. The pallid cheeks, the hollow voice, told the sad tale of death begun. But amid all the hopelessness there is hope. Storehouses had been filled with grain; and Joseph was appointed, as a minister of mercy, to deal out relief.
The glad tidings fly gladly through the land. Crowds throng the life-restoring gates. Do you ask, why is there speed in every step—and eagerness in every look? Hunger touches them with an iron grasp. Home gives no hope. In toil there is no help. Only one can relieve. To linger is to die. To apply to Joseph is to regain abundance. They rush from ruin into remedy. Here we see the starving sinner fleeing unto Jesus! There is a day, in which poor man sits careless in the hovel of his need—content with husks of his own procuring. But when light from on high reveals his impoverished state, then a very earthquake shakes the whole fabric of his delusion. He finds that, as a terrific famine, sin sucks his life-blood. In mercy's hour he hears, "You yet may live. There is bread enough, and to spare, in Jesus." What now can keep him back? He bounds over all mountains of difficulty: he wades through all oceans of hindrance: he strides over all opposing taunts and sneers: he breaks every detaining fetter. You may tie the winds with a thread: you may allay the storm with a word: you may sweep back the ocean with a feather, but you cannot stop the awakened sinner, who hungers for a crumb of mercy, and who knows that to reach Jesus is to have all-sufficiency forever.
But perhaps I address some, who have not fled in rapid flight towards this one center of relief. Awake, awake, before you sleep the sleep of death! Do you not know that your land is famine-stricken? It is so. Sin, as a desolating waste, has ravaged all the field of human nature. It yields no healthful pastures for the soul. It has no regaling fruits with juice of life. It is only a rank wilderness of thorns, and briers, and noxious weeds. You must get heavenly manna, or you die! The hands of Jesus alone dispense it. Will you not, then, arise and seek Him?
Others, with some consciousness of peril, and some efforts to escape, yet pine and languish. They set forth in search of food. But Satan's false sign-posts mislead them. So they turn aside to granaries, which 'error' has erected, and which 'self' has furnished. Here they feed on the empty bubbles of outward rites, and forms, and unsubstantial religious show. The cravings of sense and imagination may be satisfied. But sense and imagination are not the soul.
Others advance farther, and yet never reach the coffers in which saving treasure is laid up. It may be, they pause at the portals of God's word. This guide is indeed divine. In every word of every verse the voice from heaven speaks. But to listen to instruction is not safety. The knowledge of the storehouse, is not food for the famishing. Ah! miserable woe, to fall into hell with Scripture on the lip!
Others rest in the Church as their sufficient aid. It is indeed a heaven-raised fabric. It is the pillar and ground of the truth. It warns and teaches. But it can neither give nor retain life. Ah! miserable woe, to drop into hell from the scaffold of salvation!
Others feed only on Sacraments. These are indeed ordained of God, as precious signs and seals of grace; but signs are not the substance, neither are seals the deeds. Ah! miserable woe, to enter hell with Sacramental elements in the hands!
Others are content with the refreshment, which faithful ministers afford. They are indeed the stewards of Christ's mysteries, the heralds of His grace, the under-shepherds of the flock. It is their province to go in and out before the sheep. But the true nourishment of the soul is not kept by them. Ah! miserable woe, to enter hell through the schools of heaven!
Others delight themselves in labors for Christ's name. Works are indeed the evidence of faith, and shoots from its root. But the evidence is not the motive—the shoot is not the root. Ah! miserable woe, to lie down in hell in a garb of outward godliness!
Reader! believe me, to obtain support, and grace, and life, we must go directly unto Jesus! No hands but His deal out supplies. Does any tremblingly inquire, "Will a ready welcome meet my suit?" Myriads have sought, and all have found. He never yet sent suppliants away. The decree is sure—"Him who comes to Me, I will in no wise cast out." His character varies not: "He has filled the hungry with good things." The silver tone of the call yet sounds; "Eat, O friends; drink, yes, drink abundantly, O beloved."
Do you further ask, "What are the provisions of this banquet-house?" I could more easily count ocean's sands, than tell the plenteousness, which is here spread. "Hear, O you heavens, and give ear, O earth." The Lord gives His body and His blood for food. "My flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed." Faith stretches out an eager hand, and adoringly partakes. But how? Not with carnal lip. The thought is heresy. Reason scorns it. Infidelity derides it. Scripture denies it. All experience rejects it as a pitiful and profitless conceit. No. Faith takes and digests the feast with the pure and holy relish of the heart! The hidden manna is the savory truth of Christ's body given, and Christ's blood poured out for sin. The spiritual reception of this fact is strength, and vigor—not to a crumbling house of clay—but to a new-born, ever-living soul. The inner man thus nourished, fights, with a giant's might, the fight of faith, and mounts up with eagles' wings towards Zion's heights.
Here, too, we gain the full nourishment of precious promises and Scripture-truths. When the Lord's hand applies them, then every word is spirit and is life. The poor, the weary, and the heavy-laden come. Trials, afflictions, and temptations weigh them down. They crave support, and they find it in gracious testimonies, and refreshing tokens of eternal love. Like Jonathan, they taste the honey. Their eyes are lightened, and their spirits cheered.
Indeed, there is no sustenance for Christian life, which is not here provided. It is a grand word, "It pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell." Fullness not for Himself, for He is glorious as God can be—but that He may replenish weary pilgrims. As the sun is light and gives light—so Jesus is grace, and diffuses grace. The one experience of all His suppliants is, "Of His fullness have all we received, and grace for grace." The empty return full. The impoverished are made rich. The weak become strong. The faint revive. The drooping are renewed in vigor. The famished are fed. To some there was a tedious journey to the storehouses of Joseph. But the rapid flight of faith brings us in one moment to the depository of grace. Perhaps there were appointed hours, at which Joseph distributed the grain. The gates of Jesus are widely open day and night. Crowds might be detained by Joseph, while others were relieved. Jesus is always waiting to give ready ear. The Egyptian granaries, though very full, might be exhausted. Our supply is not in a cistern, but in an ever-flowing spring. The contents are as deep as infinity, as boundless as God. The Egyptians are required to purchase. We receive all, without money, and without price. Over the Gospel-mart is inscribed, "Ask, and you shall have."
Do you perish for need of the bread of life? Remember, you are unfed, because you will not feed—you starve, because you will not take. Are you as a sapless plant with little fruit and scanty shoots? It is because you rarely seek the Joseph of the Gospel. But think again. "He gives more grace." He has come, that you might have life, and that you might have it more abundantly. Child of God, you have drawn near. You know how quickly to your cry the door flew open. You sued for pardon. It was granted. You sought for joy and peace. Your heart was filled. You told your need of light and guidance. Directing rays shone brightly on your path. A suppliant eye longed for some tokens of a Savior's love. Soon you beheld his heart, engraven with your name—bleeding for your ransom.
Now, go and show your gratitude. You best can do this by constant coming to the Storehouse door. Jesus ever stands to open. Will not you ever stand to knock? He lives a life to give. Will not you live a life to take and to dispense?
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