O Bread of life from heaven,
To weary pilgrims given,
O manna from above:
The souls that hunger feed Thou,
The hearts that seek Thee lead Thou,
With Thy most sweet and tender love.
From week 4 of our family study of the Story of Joseph.

On this day, during our time of family fellowship, the children heard Genesis 43 read aloud by my husband, while simultaneously seeing it acted out on the Bible felt boards.

What a special day this was.
Treasures were uncovered together with our children, and were able to draw some moving parallels between the story of Joseph and of our Lord Jesus.

First a quick review of where we are in the story–

Jacob’s sons have had to travel to Egypt to buy grain during the great, worldwide famine.

They went there with their own money, prepared to buy their grain. 
For them, the grain meant salvation, for without it, they would surely die.

Joseph, now lord of the land, seated at Pharaoh’s right handimmediately recognizes his brothers when they come before him.
They, however, do not recognize him.
He gives them a hard time and accuses them of being spies, etc. as a way to test their hearts.
(After all, these were the same 10 who hated and despised him, threw him into a pit, and then sold him into slavery those many years ago).

In addition to his accusations against them, Joseph demands that they bring their youngest brother, Benjamin, to Egypt, in order to prove themselves to be the honest men they say they are.  Obviously, we know he wanted far more than that–can you imagine how Joseph must have felt, hearing he had a blood brother he’d never met?

Unbeknownst to them, Joseph can understand their native tongue, and he can see and hear from their discussion with one another that they are genuinely distressed, even remorseful over their past offenses (against him!) and that they truly love and desire to protect their father’s (newly) favored son, Benjamin, his own blood brother.
(Joseph and Benjamin were the only two sons born to Joseph by his favored wife, Rachel, who died in childbirth with Benjamin).
After imprisoning them for 3 days, they are released, but Simeon is made to remain in Egypt until the others return WITH Benjamin.
The other 9 brothers take their grain and begin to head home.

Along the way, they discover that their MONEY has been placed in the mouths of their sacks of grain!
They immediately become distressed, now fearing they’ll be accused of stealing on top of everything else.
But by their word, they cannot return to Egypt without Benjamin, and so, with no other choice, they head home to their father, Jacob.
When Jacob hears of what has happened, and how Benjamin has somehow become mixed up into it, he nearly loses it.  He refuses to allow them to return with Benjamin.

However, the famine is severe. 
And eventually–
 their grain runs out.
FINALLY, they must return to Egypt.
(Poor Simeon, there alone all that time!)

Reuben persuades Jacob to let them take Benjamin back with them, else returning at all is futile.

So to Egypt they head for a second time.

The first thing they do upon arriving is try to return the money that they found in their grain sacks.
Joseph, lord of all Egypt, will not take it.
Keep it, he says.  Your God has shown you favor.

The grain, (their very salvation) could not be purchased or earned.

It was freely gifted to them.
They had only to take, eat, and be filled.

If you have not already drawn the parallels, allow me to do it for you. 

Joseph, in the story, represents Christ Jesus.
Despised and rejected by his brothers.
Bringing salvation first to Gentiles (Egypt and other nations) before the brothers who rejected him originally, return to him in repentance (the Jews)

After his betrayal and unjust imprisonment, Joseph is restored and raise to sit at Pharaoh’s right hand.
The risen Christ now sits at the right hand of the throne of God.

The brothers’ temporary rejection of Joseph meant salvation for the Gentiles, even all the world, during the great famine.
What Satan intended for harm, God has intended for good.
Similarly, the Jews’ temporary hardness of heart, and rejection of Christ has meant our (Gentile) salvation! Paul says they are enemies of the gospel, yet beloved for our sake.

Jesus, Lord of all, the Bread of Life, brings salvation.
Offering up his own body, freely, for our sakes.  Redeeming our lives from sin and death.
Providing a way to life eternal.

Joseph, lord of all Egypt, provides grain (bread), bringing life and salvation.
Giving his brothers life-sustaining food, FREELY, undeservedly.
Providing a way for ALL his family to be saved
(as Romans prophecies ALL of Israel will also be saved at the Day of the Lord’s return).

Isn’t it so rich?
Sometimes we are overwhelmed as to where to even begin with explaining the next “layer” of this story to our children. . .

As parents, we must remain sensitive to the Holy Spirit~watching for those special teachable moments, in prayer for our kiddos’ hearts, that the power of the Word would pierce them, even in these tender years…
And we need to listen to their questions and thoughts as we teach them the Word.

The first few years, we are simply drawing them INTO the story. Let the Word move them.
As a blood-bought believer, how can you REALLY read this story without weeping?
Don’t rush.  Let your kids feel the tension and the emotion.

Then as they grow, begin to talk about the similarities between Joseph’s story and Jesus’.
Just draw little parallels as the Lord leads.

To our kids, we might ask: Hmmm, Joseph didn’t do anything wrong, did he?  Yet his brothers threw him into a pit, then sold him, then Potiphar had him thrown in jail for something he didn’t do!  Poor Joseph!
Then: Can you think of someone ELSE in the Bible who didn’t do anything wrong, but the people treated very badly, and even killed?

Make some simple connection for them:
Wow, just like Joseph was released and RAISED out of that prison dungeon, and put in charge of ALL of Egypt, sititng right next to King Pharoah, Jesus was ALSO raised up out of the grave, and was put in charge of HIS Father’s house too!

For this lesson, our focus was on the grain, and salvation.
With our kids, we really honed in on Jesus being the bread of life.

It was rather interesting when we got to the part about the money being returned in the sacks of grain.

We asked our daughter, who is 5, and understanding quite a bit more now, can we bring God a whole bunch of money and give it to Him so we can have eternal life in heaven?
She emphatically, and without hesitation, said OH YES.

So we talked about that, and sorted it out with her.

Then we asked again, So if you can’t BUY the bread of life (salvation), can we have it if we are really, really GOOD people and do lots of GOOD things?
Yes, she concluded again.

This was very revealing to us!
At least we realized we were dealing with some pretty major misunderstandings and a works-based-salvation theology!  =]  (this is common with children).

So we talked about Josephs’ brothers, and how they DIDN’T deserve to get the grain for free. 
And how WE cannot DO anything to deserve God’s free gift of love.
How He loved us even while we were still sinners (Rom 5:8), and by HIS DEATH, paid the price for our salvation.

We began to see her start to “get it.”
We did a craftivity where we used the gluegun to make little drawstring felt sacks (pictured above)which we filled with real grain and a few (pirate) coins :o) 
This opened up more discussion, and ended up being a great visual for the kids:

All we have to do, is open our hearts (the empty sack)
and let Him fill us with His love.
He paid the price by His death; WE can’t buy it (money was placed back at the top of their sacks)
And we certianly don’t deserve it (like the brothers, we’ve also done much wrong).

But if we take it, and EAT, we will live.

This lesson reminded me of an old favorite Michael Card Song, Come to the Table. (have a listen!)

Come to the table and savor the sight
The wine and the bread that was broken
And all have been welcomed to come if they might

Accept as their own these two tokens
The bread is His body, the wine is the blood
And the One who provides them is true
He freely offers, we freely receive
To accept and believe Him is all we must do

Come to the table He’s prepared for you
The bread of forgiveness, the wine of release
Come to the table and sit down beside Him
The Savior wants you to join in the feast

We trust that these seeds of truth, like grain, are being planted within our children’s hearts, and He who is Faithful will give the increase as we walk before Him.