I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m the youngest of three girls. Not only that, for the first eight or nine years of my life, I was the youngest cousin; and it looked as though it was going to be that way always, until my aunt surprised us with not one, but two more offspring to give me a bit more status! It is curious how age order matters so much in issues of family seniority – and it has always been that way.
Joseph’s brothers were very surprised to find themselves seated in age order at table in his house (Genesis 43:33-34). As mature men, their precise ages could not have been so apparent to their host, could it? Then what surprised them even more was that their youngest brother was treated to five times as much food! It was not as though there was any shortage, here in Egypt, the bread-basket of the known world. It was not as though he could eat five times as much! The point was, that Benjamin, their youngest brother, was being honoured and treated as of higher status; and the table-order must have only served to emphasise that point.
My guess is that Joseph was trying to give them plenty of clues, in the hope that they might start to smell a rat, and start joining up the dots. He probably also wanted to see their reaction to little bro being privileged. Would they count their own blessings and be glad for him, or would they envy and begrudge? Would the leopards that bloodied that wonderful, embroidered cloak have changed their spots? And would they cope with their values being turned upside down?
For that matter, how do we cope when our values are suddenly challenged? Sometimes God does the most surprising things, and very young Christians are given giftings way beyond what we think they can handle, or there are shifts in the way our church is organized and we feel threatened, or there is a radical change in the style of worship songs, or someone begins to worship God in a way we are unfamiliar with. When God is on the move, you can expect the unexpected. Are there some spots you need to change?