Reading the Bible has always been difficult for me. When I took the SATs I could handle almost every part until it came time for me to reading comprehension. I clearly remember having no clue what I was reading.
When I got to college it didn’t get much better, I was just forced to do it more. So I learned how to suffer through it, but it remains a chore. I’ll never forget my first semester at Calvin. It was so easy until I took my first final exams. I had so much free time that semester. College was the best. I’ll never forget opening my first exam. I had no clue what 80% of the questions were asking me for. It was like I was in the wrong class. The professor never taught us this content I was starting at. I took my exam to the front of the class and quietly whispered, “Sir, we never covered most of this material.”
He said, “Did you do your assigned readings?”
“Well then, you’re not going to do very well on this exam.”
I also clearly remember thinking, “Crap.” I had visions of my father slowly bowing his head into his hands.
I’ve grown to love reading over the years and some books have been incredibly transformative. But the Bible continues to read like a text book for me. Over time it’s slowly getting better, but it’s a very slow process.
A week after Ben died I opened my Bible for the first time on my own with no one around. I had no clue what to read. I was terrified. I was just so hurt by what happened around me that I didn’t want God to tell what was wrong with me, I wanted God to tell me what was wrong with the world and why I was in so much pain. I was just afraid of reading the wrong thing having no clue where to start.
I choose to read the story that bears the name of my son: the story of Benjamin, Jacobs second son from Rachel. I just wanted to see my son’s name in print.
This is the story I read:
Jacob had 14 sons. 12 of them came from Leah, two of them came from Rachel. Jacob loved Rachel the most and her two sons were favored the most of them all. Joseph was the first born, Benjamin was the second.
Joseph’s 12 other brothers hated how much favor Joseph got from their father Jacob so they pretended to kill him and sold Joseph into slavery in Egypt. They killed a sheep and took Jacobs clothes and covered them in blood to show to their Father. Jacob thinking his son had died grieved him heavily. He became extremely protective of Benjamin, terrified to loose him too.
But God was with Joseph. Many horrible things happened to him, but each of them lead Joseph on a path that after many years he ended up becoming the second in command in all of Egypt under Pharaoh. Joseph was instrumental in preparing Egypt for a massive famine that saved the nation from starvation. People from nations all over the Middle East came to Egypt for food.
Joseph’s brothers were among them.
When Joseph heard about their coming he tested his brothers to see if they changed or if they were filled with hate still. He framed his only full brother Benjamin to look like he stole valuables from Pharaoh. Pharaoh’s guards were sent out to look for the valuables and found them planted on Benjamin. The 12 brothers were told that Benjamin must return to Egypt and face the consequences for his actions.
Joseph listened as the brothers broke down and pleaded to have mercy on Benjamin because their father already lost one son. They said Benjamin was all his father had left. One man, Judah, even offered to take his place.
When Joseph heard this he revealed himself telling his brothers not to be afraid. He forgave them and said, ‘what you meant for evil, God means for good.’
It’s an amazing story. But I saw something I’ve never seen before. After Joseph reveals himself he weeps with his brothers and it’s one of the most beautiful moments of forgiveness, redemption, and beauty. After he reveals himself to his brothers the Bible says this:
14 Then he threw his arms around his brother Benjamin and wept, and Benjamin embraced him, weeping. 15 And he kissed all his brothers and wept over them. Afterward his brothers talked with him.
The text is clear: he specifically looks for and find his brother Benjamin. He’s pulls Ben aside and weeps with him separately.
I thought of finding Ben in heaven. I thought of my future son or daughter finding Ben in heaven. The same amazing reunion will be ours too. Our story also has redemption.
And then I realized something else. Something else that makes the story so much more wonderful than I ever realized before.
Benjamin, in this entire story that spans half of the first book of the Bible, never said a word.
Just like my son.