In Genesis 43, Jacob and his sons find themselves between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Severe famine has enveloped the earth. Of the ten sons who had gone to Egypt in order to buy grain, only nine had returned. The last time they had seen their brother Simeon, he was being bound before their eyes. To top it all off, on their way home, the nine had found their money that should have been left in exchange for Pharaoh’s grain in the mouth of their sacks. “At this their hearts failed them, and they turned trembling to one another” (Gen 42:28).
When Jacob and his family had eaten the grain the sons had brought from Egypt, failing hearts began to give way to hungry stomachs. Jacob is understandably wary of losing any more sons, but something has to give.
Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be so, then do this: take some of the choice fruits of the land in your bags, and carry a present down to the man, a little balm and a little honey, gum, myrrh, pistachio nuts, and almonds. Take double the money with you. Carry back with you the money that was returned in the mouth of your sacks.” (Genesis 43:11-12)
Even at a time of severe famine, Jacob knows that his sons cannot present themselves empty-handed before an authoritative figure who wields the power of life and death. If his sons must go, they will go with the best of what the family can scrape together. Perhaps these paltry gifts will soften the heart of Pharaoh’s governor.
We also live in an age of famine, severe thirst, great trial, and death. Ours is a famine of righteousness, thirst for meaning, trials of our own making, and separation from the Giver of life. At a time when our own hearts ought to feel the weight of failure and our spirits ought to be trembling, we continue to practice ungodliness and cheer on those who do the same.
But self-centered hearts on a godless trajectory have a way of hitting rock bottom. Like the prodigal son of Luke 15, we squander everything that matters most in reckless living. And when we’ve spent it all, we experience firsthand the desperation of famine, the bitterness of severe thirst, the consequences of our decisions, the absence of life, light, and peace.
Do we dare come before the King of the universe in such a state? We are absolutely unworthy. His wrath is rightfully revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who have been suppressing the truth. We are guilty. Separated from Christ. Strangers to the covenants of promise. Without hope. Without God. What could we possibly scrape together from the pit of our famished souls to soften the heart of this King?
Just then, we hear his voice.
The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. (Rev 22:17)
Water of life. Without price.
This King isn’t asking for the choice fruits of your land. There is no present you can put together as sufficient for a bribe. “Double the money” means nothing to him.
What is he looking for? Poverty of spirit. Mourning over sin. Meekness. Hunger and thirst for righteousness. Spirits melted by mercy and ready to share mercy with others. Purity in heart. Peacemakers. Those who are willing even to be persecuted for righteousness’ sake.
Could my tears forever flow,
Could my zeal no languor know,
These for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.
In my hand no price I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling.